Jim Burke Ford

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Profile appeared in our 31-1 Issue – April 2014

We’ve been motoring along the streets of Bakersfield for over 100 years now and in that time, the face of the automobile industry has changed dramatically. One thing that hasn’t changed is the mission of Jim Burke Ford, Kern County’s oldest continuously operating auto dealership and one of the oldest Ford dealerships in the nation.
Of course, the company hasn’t always been known by the present moniker.

Ed Haberfelde & Jim Burke

Ed Haberfelde & Jim Burke

George Haberfelde bought the Ford Garage from the late Ben Brundage’s widow in 1913, just a few short years after Henry Ford changed the face of transportation in our country.
At the time, Bakersfield was comprised of only 13,000 people, but Haberfelde, who’d already forayed into the piano and furniture business, realized just how revolutionary the automotive business would become in the future. Remember, this was a period in history when you couldn’t just walk onto a lot and drive away in a new car. It has been noted that when Haberfelde ordered a Ford in 1911, he was informed that he was on a waiting list of 100 people.
After Haberfelde purchased the business, it became, naturally, Haberfelde Ford.
George was aggressive in the market but made sure he managed the business conservatively. The company was the first dealership in the region to start selling cars on the installment plan, allowing many in Kern County to enjoy the benefits of owning their own car (at a time when a new Model T Ford was roughly $1,000). Of course, after the advent of the Ford assembly line, Henry Ford was able to drop the price of a new car to $290 in 1915, making it a more attainable purchase for his factory workers.

Original location at 1400 H Street

Original location at 1400 H Street

And shortly after, Haberfelde implemented some of innovative ideas of his own, changing the way the company handled repairs by switching to a Ford repair shop only (at an hourly labor cost of 75 cents an hour).
The dealership actually had a foundry that it used in the ‘30s to make lifts and engines. And they continued building parts to support war efforts in the early 1940s.
Over the next few years, George’s brothers, John and William, joined the company, making it truly a family business. And when George was ready to step aside, his son, Ed, stepped up to helm the company.
It was Ed who, in 1948, ended up hiring a recent engineering graduate from Stanford University, Jim Burke. Throughout the ‘50s, Burke shined as a dedicated employee who diligently worked his way up through a number of positions with the dealership, eventually taking the reins in 1964 when he bought the company from the Haberfelde family. Still, the dealership retained the Haberfelde name until 1977, when it became known as Jim Burke Ford and relocated to the present 20-acre site on Oak Street. But while the dealership name changed, the corporate name remains Haberfelde Ford to this day.
Eight years after the name change, in 1985, Burke bought the Kitchen Boyd Lincoln Mercury dealership that was located downtown on Chester and in January of 1989 moved the operation to the new facility in the Bakersfield Automall.

Will Haberfelde, driver

Will Haberfelde, driver

The millennium brought with it a number of big changes for Jim Burke Ford.
The Jim Burke Jaguar store was added to the Automall location in August of 2000 in an effort to meet the needs of luxury car buyers in Bakersfield and Kern County. Just three years later, Jim Burke Used Cars added to the organization’s line-up at the Automall. The addition of a facility for used automobiles was crucial so that Jim Burke Ford could meet the increasing local demand for a place to find quality used vehicles.
But the market for Ford products continued to grow. The summer of 2004 marked the official expansion into the Automall with another Ford Store, so that residents would have two locations to buy or lease a Ford in Bakersfield.
Unfortunately, Jim Burke passed away in July of 2006. But the culture he instilled in the nearly 300 employees that work for Jim Burke Ford lives on today under the leadership of Burke’s son-in-law, Dan Hay.
Hay oversaw the transition from the Lincoln Mercury brand to the Lincoln brand, a change that allowed for the developments of Lincoln as a premier luxury vehicle. The company also decided to discontinue the Jaguar brand this year to allow space for further expansion of the Ford and Lincoln luxury car business. However, Jim Burke Ford still retains the Jaguar authorized parts and vehicle warranty service business.

1952

1952

Hay, as president, upholds the company’s mission of building lasting relationships with the community through incredible customer service and dedication to charitable endeavors through the Jim Burke Education Foundation and other Ford organizations.
The dealership also has a dedicated commercial fleet department that serves federal and local government agencies, small business, and major industries located in Kern County. Jim Burke Ford also created a leasing company that is well established with local businesses, plus a large rental agency.
Further proving their dedication to supporting the Bakersfield and Kern County communities, the company developed the Jim Burke Collision Care facility since regional parts and service operations are an integral part of the company meeting its mission of developing longtime relationships.
Through all the ups and downs in the economy and the automobile industry over the last 100 years, Jim Burke Ford, as it is known today, has weathered the storm by ensuring they put the customer and the community first. As Hay remarked, “It’s a competitive business and you have to be able to react to a lot of changes in the industry. But we work at it every day with our stable workforce of many long term employees.” Keeping employees happy adds stability to the business, which is something that benefits both the dealership and customers. This policy has paid off. Today, Jim Burke Ford is one of the biggest Ford dealerships in the nation, often being ranked as the ninth largest in the state of California. With the core values of integrity, respect, professionalism, and excellence, Jim Burke Ford is prepared to grow even more in their second century of business.

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