Business

Longtime Bellingham car dealership now under new ownership, some changes planned

Bellingham Ford & Lincoln opens at former Diehl Ford

Diehl Ford Bellingham was sold in a deal that closed on Monday, Aug. 19, 2019. The dealership was sold to Rich Hartman. The new name for the dealership is Bellingham Ford & Lincoln. The dealership is at 1820 James St., Bellingham, Wash.
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Diehl Ford Bellingham was sold in a deal that closed on Monday, Aug. 19, 2019. The dealership was sold to Rich Hartman. The new name for the dealership is Bellingham Ford & Lincoln. The dealership is at 1820 James St., Bellingham, Wash.

One of the oldest car dealerships not just in Whatcom County but in the entire U.S. is now under new ownership.

Diehl Ford Bellingham was sold in a deal that closed on Monday, Aug. 19, said Julian Greening, the new general manager at the dealership. The dealership was sold to Rich Hartman, who lives in Olympia and has two dealerships in Aberdeen. The new name for the dealership is Bellingham Ford & Lincoln.

Greening, who worked at Toyota of Bellingham for 17 years, said he was excited about the opportunity of growing a dealership.

“This dealership has an incredible history,” Greening said, noting how much the Diehl family has and continues to contribute to the local community.

Mike Diehl will remain with the dealership, working in the finance department, Greening said in an interview.

Along with the name and ownership changes, customers may notice a few other new things in the coming months for the dealership at 1820 James St. Greening said they’ve resupplied the lot with 100 new and 80 used vehicles; they are also making significant upgrades to the infrastructure.

In the coming months the dealership plans on expanding its service department hours, adding Saturday. It will also eventually be open on Sunday again. The dealership is also working on a new website, which should be ready in about a week.

Greening said there were also changes to the management team. Joe Smith will be the service director, and Shawn Gregory will be the general sales manager. Both formerly worked at Toyota of Bellingham.

Much of the rest of the staff remains in place, Greening said, and they are currently looking to hire more sales staff. The dealership currently employs 46 people.

Greening said he plans to focus on bringing in more new and used vehicle inventory, including commercial vehicles. He noted the Ford F-150 truck is especially popular and wants to make sure that is on the lot.

“We really want to stake a claim to that market,” Greening said.

Diehl Ford was started in 1908 by Hugh Diehl just five years after the Ford Motor Company was organized. The dealership was able to survive the Great Depression as car sales plummeted, according to a 1978 publication marking the company’s 70th anniversary. During World War II, shortages of car models meant military service or working in the shipyards for employees.

The dealership was in a variety of locations through the decades, settling into its current spot in 1970, not long after the construction of nearby Interstate 5.

Bob Diehl ran the dealership from 1980 until the dealership’s 100th anniversary in 2008, when he began turning over responsibilities to his son, Mike Diehl.

The residence of the new owner and the number and location of other dealerships he owns was corrected Aug. 21, 2019.

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Dave Gallagher has covered the Whatcom County business community since 1998. Retail, real estate, jobs and port redevelopment are among the topics he covers.
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