The only Ford dealership in the southwestern Indiana city of Vincennes will close its doors later this month, one of the latest victims of the nation’s struggling auto industry.
Mayor Al Baldwin said he’s stunned by the news that Vincennes Ford will close May 23 after more than 71 years of selling cars to Vincennes residents under different ownerships.
“It’s absolutely disheartening,” he said Tuesday. “Absolutely disheartening.”
Company president Doug Abbett informed the dealership’s customers in a letter sent Tuesday that the business will begin liquidating its inventory today and close by May 23. The letter cites “the slowdown in the economy and the current automotive market conditions.”
Abbett said the closure will cost about 30 full-time and part-time employees their jobs.
U.S. auto sales have struggled for the past several months. Ford’s monthly sales tumbled 32 percent last month from a year earlier. Even so, record sales of its fuel-efficient Fusion helped push it past Toyota to retake its post as the nation’s No. 2 car seller.
Overall U.S. auto sales have fallen 34 percent from a year ago.
Marc McNeece, president and CEO of the Knox County Chamber of Commerce, said he wasn’t completely surprised by the news.
“In a way, you kind of expected this was coming but you’re still shocked by the news,” he said. “And the suddenness of it – a dealership that’s been here for generations, and in two weeks that will be gone.”
Baldwin called the closing “another dagger” stuck in the community. In March, a Goody’s store in the Wabash River city about 50 miles north of Evansville closed its doors. And now on consecutive days starting May 22, Starbucks, Kmart and Vincennes Ford will be closing.
“You try to be optimistic but, boy, it gets hard,” Baldwin said. “And the worst thing is, we want the city to be able to offer some kind of help to these businesses, but we’re staring into the same precipice – we’re waiting to find out how much money we’re going to have for the rest of the year and we know it’s not going to be enough.”
McNeece explained that the business’ closing will have an impact beyond there just being one less car dealership in the city.
“People are going to go out of town to have their Ford serviced, either to Jasper or Evansville,” he said. “They’re not just going to do that one thing while they’re away – they’re going to shop and eat and spend money out of town instead of here.”
The city’s original Ford dealership was opened by Elson Sims in 1938. Sims’ daughter later married Dick Leonard, who bought the dealership in 1973 and renamed it Leonard Ford.
In late 2003, a group bought the dealership and renamed it Vincennes Ford.