By Sterling McGinn

Customers of Newberry’s Chuck Renze Ford will notice a few small changes in and around the dealership downtown, though their footprint is not decreasing.

Beginning March 1 of this year, Chuck Renze Ford consolidated the Newberry and Manistique businesses, a move that Ford Motor Company is requesting of many small and rural dealerships across the country.

“Chuck Renze Ford having two small dealers in two different locations was kind of a prime candidate for that,” said Eric Zollinger, Newberry general manager. “For the customer experience, very few things are actually going to change.”

Chuck and Carole Renze of Manistique purchased Rahilly Motors in August 2015, and also own Renze Power Sports across the street. In its approximately 110-year presence in the Newberry community, the Ford agency has been owned by the Foster, Wyse, Carmody, and Rahilly families over the years.

“The legacy is important to us—this building has been serving Ford customers since the 1930s,” Zollinger said.

The Newberry location will remain open, and new Ford vehicles will still be sold and delivered here in Newberry.

“When somebody wants to order or buy a Ford in our inventory, they don’t have to drive to Manistique,” said Zollinger. “They still deal with me, and we can work with two locations worth of new inventory—it just won’t be parked here.”

There will be less new inventory on the sales lot, which Zollinger said will resemble the way the dealership looked during the early stages of the Covid-19 Pandemic.

“We will probably keep two new vehicles, but Manistique will have quite a bit more inventory,” he said. “We will rotate out a couple of vehicles.”

And the iconic Ford oval signs will be removed in the future, though they will be replaced with a blue oval sign reading “Sales and Service.” The official name for the Newberry location is up in the air, but Zollinger said it will likely say “Renze Sales and Service.”

Zollinger said all staff will be retained, and they will continue to hire employees.

The service garage will also still be open.

“Because Ford has in place mobile service, we are still going to be able to do warranty work, we are still going to be able to do recalls and just regular maintenance work on Ford vehicles that we have always done,” Zollinger said.

Warranty paperwork will show the Manistique location printed on the header, but the actual warranty work will be performed in Newberry.

“There will be some bumps, and we already found some and we have changed directions on a couple of things,” Zollinger said. “When someone needs a Ford OEM (original equipment manufacturer) part, they still come in, ask for the part and we log into Manistique and order the part, and it will be delivered and sold here.”

The consolidation of dealerships is not just exclusive to Ford Motor Co. Multiple automobile manufacturers are beginning to consolidate.

“It … makes multiple small dealerships into a few less medium size dealers,” Zollinger said. “We are able to do what we have always done, just a little more efficiently. This is actually because of redundancies and expenses that we had to incur having two separate dealerships under one heading.”