Boggus, Tipton families team up for new dealership

A man walks across the lot Thursday at Don Johnson Motors on Central Avenue. The business has been under new ownership since the start of November. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

BROWNSVILLE — The two families have been friends since the 1920s, but they’re just now getting around to partnering in business.

Jim Tipton, president and owner of Tipton Auto Group, and Bob Boggus, owner and president of Boggus Motors, acquired Don Johnson Motors in Brownsville on Nov. 1. The new name is Boggus Tipton Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram.

The connection between the two goes back four generations, when their grandfathers were friends and coworkers at the same Ford dealership in the ‘20s and ‘30s, Tipton said. The friendship continued with Boggus’ and Tipton’s fathers, and later with Bob and Jim themselves.

Johnson had been selling cars on Central Boulevard since the mid-1970s, including Hyundai since 1991 and Jeep since 1999. In 2012, Johnson sold the Hyundai dealership to Tipton and expanded the facility to bring in Dodge Ram. More recently, Johnson opened a Ram truck and pre-owned car center at 975 N. Expressway.

The partners are currently leasing both locations from Johnson, though all of it will be relocated to a new facility “somewhere on the expressway” for better visibility and breathing room in the not-too-distant future, Tipton said.

“It’s difficult because he’s landlocked, and he’s only got space for about probably 100 new vehicles for display,” he said. “When we get out on the expressway we anticipate we’ll stock between 300 and 500.”

Tipton also expects to increase the number of employees from 45 currently to around 100 once they’re in the new location.

“We’re estimating that we’ll start selling close to 1,000 cars a year when we get into full swing,” he said. “They’ve been struggling to sell 400 or 500 right now. We’re anticipating that we’ll double sales and really start to bring that kind of service that the customer deserves.”

A new service manager has already been hired, and technicians and service riders — the staff members who greet arriving customers — are being evaluated, said Tipton, whose son Nick is running things as general manager and is friends with Boggus’ nephew Jacob, general manager of variable operations at Boggus Ford in Harlingen.

The opportunity to acquire Don Johnson Motors presented itself when a deal with another potential buyer last month fell through, Tipton said.

“I called (Johnson) and asked if it was time to get together and he said yes,” Tipton said. “I met him at his office and we kind of struck a deal. We had done this before with Hyundai, and we’ve been good friends for 50 years. We’re familiar with each other. We’re comfortable with talking terms and talking dollars.”

It had to be done in a hurry, however, since Chrysler gave them only three weeks to close a deal that normally would take two months, he said.

Tipton emphasized again that he and Boggus are committed to building customer service with the new operation.

“It’s going to be the biggest challenge but it’s also the biggest reward for us,” he said. “We’re both very conscious of service after the sale.”

And while it may have taken a century, it was the right time for the two families to finally partner up, Tipton said.

“We’re very close friends,” he said. “This is pretty much a good fit for us as far as doing this business together.”

sclark@brownsvilleherald.com