Santos closes Firebaugh Ford; aims to triple sales in city

By Thaddeus Miller / tmiller@losbanosenterprise.comJanuary 25, 2013 

The majority owner of Santos Ford said he plans to at least triple his business in Los Banos now that he's closing an out-of-the-area dealership.

"Ford Motor Company decided to close Westside Ford in Firebaugh," Marion Santos, 63, said.

Los Banos' location along Highway 152 and potential for growth, Santos said, made the Pacheco Boulevard location more viable than Westside Ford, which is about 30 miles southeast.

Santos said the Los Banos dealership did $4 million in business in 2012 and he expects to do between $15 million and $18 million this year. Westside Ford did $12 million in 2012, he said.

Expanding business could be good news for the city's tax revenue. In an interview in 2009, Santos estimated he was paying $75,000 a month in sales tax until the economy sagged.

Santos will move the Firebaugh merchandise and employees to Los Banos, he said, and he has no plans for layoffs.

"Anyone who wants a job, has a job," he said.

Monday, employees were installing a platform to create more office space.

The location, which Santos opened in 1996, is the only new-car dealership left in town. The car business dipped with the economy, but Santos said it's due for a comeback.

"It's coming back up a little bit," he said.

People have been holding off on buying a new car, he said, but eventually consumers will have no choice but to replace their vehicles.

Los Banos Motors and Paradiso Motors, two new-car dealerships, closed in 2008. Santos said he was able to survive because he's been a businessman for 43 years. "The car business is still a challenge," he said, adding he started his first enterprise at 19.

"Hopefully, we do a lot of business in town," he said.

Santos also owns Toscano RV and Los Banos Chevron at 1009 E. Pacheco Blvd.

In 2009, Santos sold about 27 percent of his business to entrepreneur Tony Dutra, who has been running day-to-day operations. Santos officially took control Jan. 14.

In a phone interview, Dutra said he had no comment.

Santos' son, Michael, 44, owns about 22 percent of the dealership.

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanosenterprise.com.

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanos enterprise.com.

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