Kari Rihm, president and CEO of Rihm Kenworth, is the 2022-2023 ATD Truck Dealer of the Year....

Kari Rihm, president and CEO of Rihm Kenworth, is the 2022-2023 ATD Truck Dealer of the Year. She was joined on stage during the awards presentation by her son J.B., who works in the business.

Photo: ATD

Kari Rihm, president and CEO of Rihm Kenworth in South St. Paul, Minnesota, was named the 2022 Truck Dealer of the Year during the American Truck Dealers convention March 10.

The national award, sponsored by American Truck Dealers, Heavy Duty Trucking and Procede Software, recognizes commercial-truck dealers for business performance, industry leadership and service to their community.

“Accept and embrace the fact that your best successor just might be your wife/spouse, your sister, daughter, granddaughter or niece,” said Rihm when accepting her award. “You didn’t think l’d miss the opportunity to highlight women in the industry, did you?”

Rihm became the unexpected owner of Rihm Kenworth in 2010 after her husband John died from brain cancer just four months after being diagnosed. Rihm had been on the dealership’s board of directors since 1998 and was a key advisor, she had never worked at the dealership.

Despite her grief, Rihm got to know the business, asking questions about every department, being introduced to frontline employees and customers, and getting a feel for the fourth-generation family business.

“After a few weeks, I could see the potential the company had if someone were willing to commit significant personal effort and financial resources to an entrepreneurial growth plan.”

A Rihm Kenworth truck maintenance facility.

A Rihm Kenworth truck maintenance facility.

Photo: Rihm Kenworth

The other two nominees were Eric Jorgenson, president and CEO of JXE Enterprises in Hartland, Wisconsin, and Jon Vandehey, president and CEO of Mid-State Truck Service in Marshfield, Wisconsin.

The nominees were selected by state, metro and national association leaders. A panel of professors from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business evaluated the nominees for the national award based on dealership performance, industry leadership and civic contributions.

More about Kari Rihm, Truck Dealer of the Year

When Rihm first inherited the business, she had three locations and was headquartered in a building that was built in 1949. Within nine months of inking her first three-year contract with Kenworth, Rihm had opened her fourth location and began looking for new headquarters. In 2018, she opened two facilities to house the newest, most modern and customer/employee centric truck dealerships in her market, moving from 27,000 square feet of space to a total of 140,000.

Since 2010, Rihm has increased total dealership sales by 248% and total dealership profits by 1,214%. Today, Rihm Kenworth has 274 employees across seven full-service sales, service and parts facilities in Minnesota and Wisconsin, in addition to leasing and rental subsidiaries, a body shop, a private label parts business and a truck parts export business.

Rihm is passionate about improving diversity, equity and inclusion in both her own dealership and across the trucking industry.

“Much of my passion for improving our DE&I comes from my experience being a female business owner in a white male populated industry,” she said. “I know what it feels like and how one is treated as a minority. The demography of the country is changing. We must not only adapt but embrace the emerging majorities.”

Rihm is active in a number of charitable initiatives, including serving on the United Hospital Foundation board of directors.

“During my husband’s illness and treatment, the importance of having access to a highly effective, reliable, caring, and responsible experience became our focus. United Hospital in St. Paul served my husband and our family well,” she said. “The hospital has touched my family and my employees, and this is my way of giving back gratitude for what they have done for us.”

Read more in the upcoming April issue of HDT about Rihm and the other nominees and their views on trucking industry issues such as parts procurement, electric vehicles, and preparing for the future.

From the archives: Rihm was also a Truck Dealer of the Year nominee in 2015:

Top Dealers Focus on Changing Customer Expectations

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