WHEELING, W.Va. (Feb. 23, 2011) – The family business started in 1933 when C.H. Remp, a branch manager with truck manufacturer White Motor Company, moved from Pittsburgh to Wheeling, W.Va., to become a truck dealer near the Ohio River.
The dealership, named the Wheeling White Truck Co. and located on 17th St., sold White, Autocar and Western Star, all brands manufactured by the Cleveland-based White Motor Co.
“The family lived above the garage and worked hard on increasing sales until they could expand the business,” said Ron Remp, 59, grandson of C.H. Remp and a third-generation dealer.
Over the next several decades, Wheeling’s industrial economy flourished. Iron and steel mills were built on the banks of the Ohio River along with factories that produced nails, glass and cigars, Remp said.
“During the busy industrial days in Wheeling, the dealership thrived and grew as the city expanded with a large working population,” he said.
A few years after the dealership moved to its current location at 23rd and Market streets in 1969, an economic recession hit the country hard and forced the White Motor Co. to file for bankruptcy in 1980.
In 1981, Volvo AB purchased White’s manufacturing plants. In 1987, Volvo purchased GMC’s truck business, creating the White-GMC brand. The dealership added GMC to its lineup and changed its name to Wheeling Truck Center, Inc.
“We found it difficult to operate the dealership while our manufacturer was in bankruptcy,” Remp said. “We were eager for Volvo’s investments in plants and equipment, which helped us to secure our customer accounts and continue to build the business.”
Today, 78 years after Remp’s grandfather started the business, the dealership sells Volvo and UD commercial trucks in a 22,000 sq. ft., full-service facility. It’s the oldest running White-Volvo dealership in North America. Remp runs the business with his son, Chad, 34, the dealership’s operations manager and general manager of Lobster Truck Leasing & Rental, Inc., which began in 1996.
While Remp says the basic needs of his customers haven’t changed much over the past several decades, the reliability and durability of trucks, engines and drive-train components have tripled since the late 1960s.
“People always expect and demand to be treated honestly and fairly and with respect,” Remp said. “Our customers have always demanded value for any transaction, whether it’s a truck or part purchase or service work performed, but keeping pace with the cost of the rapid changes in technology over the years has been a challenge.”
“Today, many changes driven by the federal government do not offer value to our customers. It’s hard to justify the increased cost for these developments,” added Remp, who earlier this month met with U.S. Rep. David B. McKinley, R-W.Va., at the dealership to discuss how federal regulations are affecting the industry.
McKinley, who was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010 from West Virginia’s 1st Congressional District, toured the dealership, met with employees and got a first-hand look at some of the latest advances in truck and engine technologies.
“Rep. McKinley took this opportunity to learn about some of the challenges truck dealers face and also to better understand how legislative actions in Congress affect truck dealers,” said Remp, who is also the Volvo line representative for the American Truck Dealers (ATD).
“We discussed a proposed bill that would eliminate the 12 percent Federal Excise Tax currently charged on the sale of new heavy-duty trucks by replacing it with a cost-neutral 7.3-cent diesel fuel tax,” Remp added.
The dealership visit was part of ATD’s ongoing efforts to make members of Congress more aware of how federal regulations affect the commercial truck-retailing industry.
For the nation’s medium- and heavy-duty truck dealers, legislative and regulatory priorities are the focus of the 2011 ATD Convention and Expo, held April 15-18, in Phoenix.
ATD’s legislative and regulatory priorities include shaping the nation’s first-ever proposed fuel-efficiency standards for commercial trucks by implementing a cost-effective and technologically feasible approach, promoting congressional efforts to help stimulate new-truck sales and passage of a highway bill.
About ATD: The American Truck Dealers (ATD) division of the National Automobile Dealers Association, established in 1970, represents nearly 2,000 medium- and heavy-duty truck dealers with about 3,000 franchises, both domestic and international.