Kimball Motors in SLO for sale


Kimball Motors Co., family owned and operated in San Luis Obispo since 1947, is for sale.

Longtime owner James W. Kimball is retiring at the age of 80. Sales manager Nick Russell confirmed Thursday that the dealership, which has 30 employees, is in the process of negotiating a sale with a buyer in Southern California, though he would not disclose the price or the potential buyer.

Kimball Motors, San Luis Obispo’s oldest car dealer, has estimated revenues of more than $30 million a year, Russell said. The prospective buyer has no plans to move the dealership and expects to retain the majority of its employees, Russell said.

Volkswagen sales have comprised a third of the revenues for Kimball Motors, which also offers Chevrolet and Mercedes-Benz, he added.

However, Volkswagen canceled its franchise with the dealership this week because Kimball Motors did not meet VW’s sales quota. VW revoked its franchise at Kimball Motors on Tuesday after 15 months of monitoring. VW asked for 242 car sales a year, the equivalent of 20 a month, but Kimball Motors was selling only 10 to 15 a month.

Russell said the quota would have been easier to meet if Volkswagen had shipped more of the top-selling models, such as the Jetta and Passat, and fewer of the other models.

He added that the loss of Volkswagen would not affect the pending sale of the business. Kimball Motors will continue to service VWs that are not under warranty, but for warranty service, VW owners will have to drive to Santa Maria or Salinas.

Early start

The company was started in 1947 by Fred C. Kimball on lower Higuera Street in San Luis Obispo, Russell said. In 1959, James W. Kimball, Fred’s son, took over. The dealership operated for some time in downtown San Luis Obispo before moving to its current location on Calle Joaquin, visible from Highway 101. The dealership offered Chevrolet and Mercedes cars until adding Volkswagen in 1990.

James W. Kimball issued a statement to The Tribune thanking his customers and employees:

“After being involved in Kimball Motors Co. for 57 years and the dealer for 52 years, I have decided to retire and let a new owner continue to offer Chevrolet and Mercedes-Benz products and service in San Luis Obispo. It has been a wonderful experience being able to interact with our customers and employees and being a vital part of the economy in San Luis Obispo, but at almost 80 years of age it is time to explore and enjoy other interests.”

Cole Chrysler Dodge, which was started as Stanley Motors in 1950 by Stanley Cole, will now be the longest-running family-operated dealership in San Luis Obispo.

Eleven acres, consisting of four lots zoned for car sales immediately adjacent to Kimball Motors, are owned by Roger Hogan, who owns a large Toyota dealership in Claremont, east of Los Angeles. The lots have been for sale for several years since Hogan lost a bid to open a Lexus dealership there. Sale signage was recently removed, though it was unclear Thursday whether there was a new buyer. Calls to Hogan were not returned.

Russell said Hogan has expressed some interest in the property but has not made an offer. No other local offers have been made.