Thompson Automotive Group has been passed down through four generations. What began for the Thompson family as a small-service gas station in 1929 grew to the full-service car dealership it is today with several locations across Maryland.

“I literally grew up in the business,” explains Tom Thompson Sr., president of Thompson Automotive Group. “We started out years ago with the small service and gas station, selling different products and used cars.”

Thompson started working at the business full-time in 1965 after he received his degree in business administration at the University of Baltimore. He initially did repair work, and then worked in the body shop, followed by working in sales and various management positions. “You have five or six years of this or that and before you know it, you’re in charge of the dealership,” he says.

 

Thompson Automotive runs three body shops and five rooftop dealerships, where the company sells brands such as Toyota-Scion, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram, Mazda, Hyundai and Equus. The company estimates that it will sell more than 5,000 cars this year. 

 

Growing with the Times

Thompson Automotive went through a significant growth spurt in the 1980s and 1990s, but even today it needs to adjust to the ever-changing automotive industry. Many factors account for customers’ vehicle-buying decisions such as the economic conditions in the country, new car trends and the price of gasoline. This all affects what kind of vehicle customers want to purchase, along with how much money they’re willing to spend.

“You just try to stay as current as you can. Be aware of what’s going on,” Thompson Sr. says. “The industry itself has to respond to the change in communities for what people want.”

Thompson Automotive has found that most people in the area prefer to deal with local retailers, which is how it competes within the market. The company has a close relationship with the community; it sponsors local sports teams, it’s involved in the chamber of commerce and it supports the local community colleges. “Most people prefer to deal with who they’re familiar and comfortable with,” Thompson Sr. says. “We do practically everything and support all community efforts. We’ve always done it.”

Internet retail provides the company’s customers searching for a new or used vehicle with a growing set of useful tools. Moving forward, Thompson Automotive’s ability to manage its web presence is critical to its success.

Thompson Sr. believes the key to keeping up in this industry is to stay competitive, focused and enthusiastic. “You have good and bad days,” he says. “It’s no different than what anyone else faces day to day. You have to have a dedication to what you do. If that’s the case and you surround yourself with excellent people, then you’ll do well.”

 

Family Business 

Aside from the ownership of Thompson Automotive being passed down through four generations, many of its workers are multigenerational as well. There are several father/son teams that have been with the company for decades. 

“It’s really the people that make the business,” Thompson Sr. says. “We’ve had as many as third-generation families in the business. It says a lot about the working conditions here and that these people have been able to support their family and grow and have the other family members come into it as well. “

The company has put together a dedicated team that puts customer satisfaction at the forefront of its business. It does both internal and outsourced training, along with peer groups that get together on a quarterly basis to share best practices. These groups discuss what worked for a successful sale, how to keep customers happy and practices that make for a smoother process for sales, finance and the body shop operations. 

With the company’s dedication to its customers, the stellar quality of its workers and ability to maintain a business that lasts through many generations, Thompson Automotive has won several awards. The most notable for Thompson Sr. was being nominated for Maryland’s Time Magazine’s Quality Dealer Award in 2003, a nationwide recognition.

“It’s just a fact that the efforts of the people that work here help retain customer satisfaction,” Thompson Sr. says. “When you’ve been around as long as we have in the communities, to maintain that, it’s done by the people that work here.” 

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