By Christina Harper Special to The Herald
EVERETT — The Washington State Auto Dealers Association has named Wallace S. “Buzz” Rodland its president for 2013-14.
Rodland, owner of Rodland Toyota-Scion in Everett, previously served on the WSADA Board of Directors and Executive Committee.
“Buzz is an amazingly generous man, outstanding business leader and a forward-thinking and capable president for our state’s dealer body,” said WSADA Executive Vice President Vicki Giles Fabré.
Being WSADA president means a lot to Rodland, he said. His father, Wally, served on the board of the association during the 1970s. Family friend and Buzz Rodland’s middle namesake, Sig Follestad, was president of the group in 1924.
Follestad founded what is now Rodland Toyota-Scion in 1912. He was a Norwegian national who had joined the U.S. Navy, service that earned him U.S. citizenship.
The Rodland roots in transportation go back to the early 20th century when Buzz Rodland’s grandfather drove the first horse team for the Robbins Transfer Co. in Everett.
It was the mid 1930s when Follestad, who was childless, asked Rodland’s grandfather if he could send his son to sweep and pump gas at the business. He sent Wally Rodland, who also acted as chauffeur for Follestad.
“That was my dad,” Rodland said.
Wally Rodland worked his way up through the dealership. Follestad gave control of the company to him before he died in 1957.
Back then, dealers paid $25 to have new cars delivered to Everett from Seattle, Rodland said. But his father managed to get around the fee.
“He would pile eight of us in a station wagon and we’d drive to Seattle,” he said. “We would drive the new cars to Everett to avoid the payment.”
Years later, Rodland would take on the same job that his father had been offered by Follestad while on a break from college. He pumped gas and swept floors and learned about the business to decide if it was for him.
“I came back and worked for two solid years to see if I liked it,” Rodland said.
He did. He worked his way up to service manager.
“The heart and soul of any car dealership is the service department,” Rodland said.
The first car that Rodland sold was a red 1966 Plymouth Barracuda. The first car he owned was a 1956 Jaguar XK-140 roadster. He bought it for $400 when he was a junior in high school. Rodland renovated the car and sold it two years later for $1,300 (about 1/100th today’s asking price for nicely restored examples).
Much has changed in the car industry during Rodland’s career.
WSADA has approximately 300 dealer members who serve 75 communities and employ nearly 18,000 people in Washington.
One of the hallmarks of Rodland’s business is long-term employees, some of whom have worked at the dealership now for 30 years.
“We started with 25 and now have 102,” Rodland said.
But change is a part of what the business is all about. The dealership has grown considerably throughout the years and Rodland says that policies and procedures are always changing, as is the space in the dealership that has and continues to expand.
“Telematics (navigation and informaiton systems) in cars are changing, gas mileage is changing,” he said.
Rodland Toyota always has customers in mind when making decisions. It was the first auto dealership in Everett to open on Sundays for sales. Staff members are now talking about adding Sunday hours for service or adding second shifts.
What hasn’t changed throughout the years is selling cars.
“It’s a one-on-one direct connection,” Rodland said. “It has never changed.”
As WSADA president, Rodland will see more changes, including the construction of a new office in Renton that will serve association members. He intends to maintain the association’s good relationship with the Washington State Attorney General’s Office and reinstate a dealer advisory committee.
Among his many philanthropic endeavors, Rodland makes frequent trips to Guatemala with the help of the Rotary clubs of Marysville and South Everett-Mukilteo to help build schools for indigenous mountain villagers, many of whom do not have running water or electricity.
“They are all very inspiring people,” Rodland said.
In 10 years, Rodland says he sees himself still working at the dealership alongside his two daughters, Lindsay Crow and Allison Rodland.
“I have no plans to retire,” Rodland said. “It’s not a job if you love it.”