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#1 Cochran buys venerable Ford dealership,

marks first buy in three years

By Patty Tascarella – Senior Reporter, Pittsburgh Business Times

After a three-year hiatus, Pittsburgh’s largest automotive dealer is back on the acquisition track.

On Wednesday, #1 Cochran announced that it has acquired Butler County Ford, one of nation’s oldest Ford dealerships and a mainstay for more than a century on South Main Street in Butler.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. It marks the second Ford franchise for #1 Cochran, which now has 29 new vehicle franchises representing 18 different brands.

The store will be rebranded as #1 Cochran Ford and President and CEO Rob Cochran confirmed plans to construct a state-of-the art showroom and service center nearby within two years.

“We’re excited about Ford, we’re excited about Butler, we’re excited about the long-term legacy of Butler County Ford and we’re confident that we can grow that,” Cochran said.

Cathy Glasgow, third-generation owner of Butler County Ford, noted similarities between her company and Cochran’s — both are family owned and operated and “truly care about their customers,” she said. “After much consideration, I felt it was time to pass the torch."

Cochran historically is the region’s most active acquirer, a local company as opposed to the growing trend of publicly traded dealers and private equity buyers buying dealerships that have been family-owned for decades.

Its last deal was the February 2019 purchase of what are now known as #1 Cochran Chevrolet, #1 Cochran Nissan Cranberry and Body by Cochran, a transaction that capped adding five stores in 10 months. But that doesn’t mean #1 Cochran wasn’t looking.

“Sometimes things come up rather rapidly and in other cases, it takes more time to come to fruition,” Cochran said. “In this case, we’ve spoken to Cathy on and off for six or seven years. Might be longer than that. The way we deal with prospective sellers is like we try to sell cars. We’re respectful of the process. We know these are personal decisions for people. It doesn’t come on our time schedule, it comes on theirs. Sometimes, we’ll go a year or more without something happening. Other times, there will be a flurry.”

The deal strengthens #1 Cochran’s position with Ford, he said, “and gives us more inventory.”

The grip of the Covid-19 pandemic still lingers.

“From everything we see, listen to and take counsel from, it doesn’t seem like that is going to slow down or improve any time soon,” Cochran said. “I think the market is going to be challenged with supply chain and inventory for the foreseeable future — the next year or whatever. So people have adjusted to that. Trade-in values have never been greater. There are examples of dealers taking the opportunity to charge over the (manufacturer’s suggested retail price) for various units. We’re proud to say we’ve never done that in any case or situation. The long-term relationship with our customers is much more important to us than a short-term opportunity. We’ve taken that standpoint for over 57 years, it’s served us well and we’ll continue to do that.”

Job offers have been extended to Butler County Ford employees but #1 Cochran said it’s too soon to say how many will come aboard. Through its sales, service and collision repair operations, #1 Cochran employs more than 1,200.

Ranking as the nation’s 62nd-largest dealer group, the company was founded by Cochran’s late father in 1965 as a single-point Pontiac dealership.