Pioneering Calif. dealer Bert Boeckmann dies at 92

Born Aug. 21, 1930, in South Gate, Calif., Boeckmann did not initially plan to become a car dealer. He attended the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps in college and thought about serving as a military officer. He told Automotive News in 2013 that he joined Galpin Ford at the urging of a friend and ultimately wound up staying longer than his friend.

He was promoted to general manager in 1957. He recalled putting in long hours to improve the dealership’s financial position.

“Even here, at first, a week didn’t go by that I didn’t think of quitting,” he later told Automotive News. “In 1957, the store was losing money and it was out of trust. They made me manager and I insisted on doing things my way. I vowed to make it the most profitable Ford store in America, and we did. I worked every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.”

Boeckmann took ownership of Galpin Ford in 1968 and led the group as it added franchises, including selling the first Saturn vehicle in the U.S. in 1990. He worked six days a week well into his 80s, even after his son, Beau, became president and COO in 2014.

“My father started off having integrity and honesty in a business that really didn’t, and he was more concerned about taking care of his customers than he was himself,” Beau Boeckmann said Monday. “He wasn’t about one deal. He was about taking care of somebody.”

Boeckmann initiated personalization and customization, dubbed “Galpinization” after the dealership group’s founder, Frank Galpin. That led to the creation of the custom shop Galpin Auto Sports in 2006.

“If you really like people, and I genuinely do, you can keep the customers for generations,” Boeckmann, who was named an Automotive News All-Star in 2005, said in 2009. “I’ve got them down to the fourth generation.”

Galpin Motors ranks No. 63 on Automotive News‘ list of the top 150 dealership groups in the U.S., selling 13,276 new vehicles and 6,779 used vehicles in 2022. The group has 12 franchises, Beau Boeckmann said.

Boeckmann died two years to the day after his wife, Jane, his family said.

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