Ken Garff Group acquires nine dealerships in four states

The Utah-based car dealer expands to 62 dealerships.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Ken Garff Red Zone at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City was officially unveiled in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021.

The Ken Garff Automotive Group just got a lot bigger — it has acquired nine dealerships in four states, bringing its total to 62. It’s the biggest expansion in the company’s 89-year history.

And if it seems like an odd time to buy more dealerships, what with low car and truck inventories because of a shortage of computer chips, the exact opposite is true, according to Garff CEO Brett Hopkins.

“It’s a lot easier to buy a business when they don’t have any inventory than to buy it when they have a lot of inventory,” he said. “Taking inventory only takes a couple of minutes, when it normally would take a couple of days.”

And, he said, the inventory problems are “definitely temporary.”

“For sure, the market’s going to normalize,” Hopkins said. “The supply chain’s going to catch up. All dealerships across the country will start to have more inventory before the end of the year.”

After “exploring expansion opportunities for the last year,” Garff has acquired Kia and Hyundai dealerships in Arizona; Hyundai and Cadillac dealerships in Texas; Ford, Toyota and Hyundai dealerships in Wyoming; and two Ford dealerships in Colorado.

“It’s our overall, long-term strategy here at Garff to continue to slowly grow or footprint,” Hopkins said. “We’ve always had a desire to expand in neighboring states. We view them as growth-oriented states. The opportunity arose and we jumped at it.”

And the expansion will be a boon to employees in Utah, although some of them will be leaving the state because of it.

“It gives us an opportunity to promote to some leadership roles out of state, and in doing so, it creates some new leadership opportunities for employees in state,” he said. Utah employees are being promoted to lead positions at the newly acquired dealerships “particularly in Arizona and in Colorado. And then it creates other opportunities here in Utah. It’s just a domino effect.”

The late Ken Garff (1906-1997) founded the company in 1932, selling used cars. He opened his first new car dealership — Studebakers — in 1937.

“When my grandfather, Ken Garff, founded this company in 1932, he made sure we give back to our communities by implementing values of honesty, integrity, empathy for others and a strong work ethic,” said John Garff, president of Garff Enterprises. “We don’t do that for recognition or for awards, but to this day and in every dealership across nine states, we carry that tradition forward. It’s part of who we are.”

The company’s slogan, “We hear you,” has become familiar across Utah, where Garff operates 29 dealerships. Before the latest acquisition, Garff also operated dealerships in California, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada and Texas.