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FORWARD DRIVE: Jackson takes over Ford dealership

By Lauren Johnson

Jim Jackson, the owner of Bill Jackson Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick, GMC, is now the proud owner of Bill Jackson Ford, formerly Pike County Ford.

“Our goal is just to turn this store into the same thing that we have up the street,” Jackson said. “Keeping the same costumers coming back and providing the level of service everybody expects.”

Jackson plans to use the same business model as the GMC dealership, “which is providing consumers a fair price and more importantly, taking care of them after the sale,” he said.

He wants to give the people of Troy the kind of car service they deserve where they will not be forced to travel to Montgomery or Dothan.

Jackson was approached last summer about becoming the owner of the Ford dealership, and after several months of discussion, an agreement was made. He officially became the dealer on May 23.

Jackson said owning dealerships of rival car companies is a unique position.

“The first time I came in, one of my buddies was out working on some lights and he flagged me down. I stopped, rolled the window down and asked, ‘What do you want?’ He said, ‘Oh, I didn’t want anything. I just had to make sure that was you in a Ford truck.’ Another one of my friends, that does some work for us, did the same thing when he saw me and said, ‘Man, that doesn’t look right.’ Jackson laughed.

Ray O’Brien, who has been in the car business for 25 years and has been the sales manager at the Ford dealership for the past decade, said he was just happy to have local ownership again. “For the last three years, the owner was from out of town, so there wasn’t really a face to put with the community.”

Alan Linzie, also a sales manager at Ford, is looking forward to the new ownership as well. “This is my brand and, in my opinion, this is the best brand on the road, so I was happy that I could stay a part of Ford and work for a family that’s got a name that everyone has trusted for years here,” Linzie said. “That’s the perfect combination for me, the right brand under the right name.”

Linzie has also been in the business with Ford for 25 years and was working at Andalusia Ford when he heard that Jim Jackson purchase Pike County Ford. “My wife and I love this area, we love this community, and we love the university. She teaches there and our children go to college there, so it just made sense to come work here,” he said.

As Jim Jackson reaches his 25-year anniversary as a dealer this month, he explained that his father, Bill Jackson, who has been retired from the car business for two years after being a dealer for 40 years, taught him a lot.

“He struggled early on with the store he bought in Ashlyn, Alabama in 1979 when Jimmy Carter was president because interest rates were high. The car business was just really tough back then,” Jackson explained. “He made it through that, and he always says that was the toughest time he’d ever been through. But, it made him much better at what he does because of it.”

Jackson worked with his father in the car business since he was in high school, and they were only separated for a few years while working at different dealerships in separate cities. They came back to work together in Troy in 1996 to start building the GMC store.

“The car business is all I’ve ever done,” said Jackson. “I worked part time all through high school. After football practice, baseball practice or after school, I’d walk two blocks to the dealership and start washing cars or whatever he (his father) told me to do.”

Jackson worked at his father’s dealership during the summers and when he was in college at the University of Alabama. After that, he went to work for his father at his dealership full time in late ’86.

He describes working with his father saying, “It was definitely different. He was probably tougher on me than with anyone else, as you would expect.”

Deciding to keep the two car dealerships in Troy named after his father, he states his reason behind it saying, “It’s been successful, and he’s done it the right way for 40 years, so why mess with success.”