Fleet Management

Tightening Belts, Looking Ahead

May 2008, TruckingInfo.com - Cover Story

by Deborah Lockridge, Editor-in-Chief - Also by this author

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Winner Profile: W. Marvin Rush

In 1965, W. Marvin Rush and two partners opened their first dealership in Houston, with a vision to build a network of dealerships that would sell, lease and service trucks.

Today, Rush Enterprises Inc. operates the largest network of heavy-duty and medium-duty truck dealerships in North America, with 48 full-service dealerships across the South and West. Its dealerships span the nation from Florida to California and cover the key trucking thoroughfares of I-10 and I-20.

"We changed the culture," Rush says. "I went public in 1996, and we were the first truck or auto dealer ever to go public." Within six months, he said, car dealers were going public right and left. "We have raised the value of truck and car franchises many times what it used to bring. In fact, I had a Wall Street guy tell me, 'Every dealer ought to send you a thousand dollars as thanks for increasing the value of their businesses.'

The company has developed its Rush Truck Centers as "one-stop centers" where, at one convenient location, its customers can purchase new or used trucks, insurance products, aftermarket parts and accessories, and have service performed by certified technicians.

A phrase that you will hear often around Rush is "trucks don't sell service, service sells trucks." The company took a leadership role in offering customers what were considered innovative service options at the time - pickup and delivery of vehicles, after-hours service, fully equipped mobile service, 24/7 emergency roadside assistance and drop-off service. Mobile technicians perform work on-site at customer locations to fill short-term technician needs or on-going staffing.

The company also set the standard for facilities with large on-site inventories, spacious showrooms, well-stocked parts and merchandise stores, significant numbers of service bays equipped with the latest technology, and comfortable driver's lounges, some even with shower and laundry facilities.

Another key factor, especially in such a large organization, is key people initiatives.

"Our people is what makes us successful, and the way that our culture runs with them even though our organization has grown, our culture still values the entrepreneurial spirit."

The company spends $1.5 million each year to hold company recognition events, even in the leanest of economic times. Recruiters are dedicated to attracting college graduates from around the country for its management trainee program. A skills training and recognition event for service technicians provides more than $100,000 in cash, prices and compensation annually to recognize and reward the excellence of technicians. Dedicated recruiters have the job of attracting qualified technicians for Rush facilities. Aggressive compensation and incentive programs are in place to recognize both individual and team performance.

"I've been doing this 43 years, and I try to take a personal interest in continuing to stay in contact with our people, to listen to employees' ideas," Rush says.

Even though the heavy-duty truck industry was down 46 percent in 2007, Rush earnings were down only 12 percent over the previous year. In fact, 2007 earnings were the second largest in the company's history. While heavy-duty sales were down, medium-duty and used sales were up.

Rush has been active in service to the industry. He was a member and/or chair of the Peterbilt and GMC Dealer Councils for nine years.

"The firm's vision is based on service innovations, thoughtful personnel initiatives and an entrepreneurial culture. The organization has set a high standard for itself: to provide truck buyers with an experience akin to that of luxury automotive buyers," said the judges.

Rush Enterprises has been awarded Peterbilt Dealer of the Year twice and numerous Peterbilt, PacLease, GMC and Hino national and regional awards.

Marvin Rush has made significant contributions to a wide range of organizations where his dealerships are located. One area of personal interest to Rush is encouraging underprivileged high school students to pursue a college education, through a family scholarship endowment and through involvement in county livestock shows and rodeos.

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