Commitment Equals Longevity at Jones Automotive
“Jones for a Lifetime” is no coincidence. Danny Jones, Larry Jones and Bryan Kilby, owners and partners of Jones Automotive in Bel Air, attribute the company’s longevity to one thing: commitment. “It really is for a lifetime,” Danny says.
Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, Jones Automotive reinforces its commitment to employees and customers. The 45-acre campus at the corner of Harford and Bel Air Roads is home to Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, RAM, Toyota, Subaru, Nissan, Hyundai and Kia dealerships, and it is the reality of the vision of Vernon Jones, son of founder Columbus McVey Jones. In 1917, CM Jones opened an authorized Ford repair center in Fig, N.C. He later moved to Conowingo, Md., where he built a garage and gas station called the Jones Motor Company. When Vernon Jones took over his father’s company in 1939, it was a Studebaker sales and service center. Vernon moved the Jones Motor Company to Bel Air and opened a Plymouth dealership, along with Honda motorcycles. The next eight years would bring great expansion, both physically and fiscally. While driving past the now locally famous intersection of Jones Junction in those early years, Vernon turned to his son, Danny, and said, “Can’t you see the entire hill covered with cars?”
That was in the early 1970s. Today, Jones Junction is swarming with hundreds of people and 5,000 vehicles. In 1983, Don Kilby, Bryan’s father, became a partner with Vernon Jones. Bryan says that one of his proudest moments occurs each morning when he arrives at work early and sees that hill and its cars. “I drive through these lots and I think about the responsibility we have for all of this. We have over 670 employees, we work on 700 cars every day and sell 40 new and used cars a day,” he says proudly.
Indeed, the company has experienced month after record-breaking month of sales. Kilby notes that every new month is a challenge because the sales team is coming off of a sales record and has to start each month at zero. “But, they’ve made it every time,” he says.
The company’s customer base comes from all areas within a 25-mile radius of the Junction, all the way to Baltimore, Cecil County and lower Pennsylvania in York and Lancaster. “We have commitments of entire families who buy all of their cars here,” Kilby explains. “Word of mouth is everything in this business, and we treat our customers right, so they do spread the word.”
Danny Jones says the company’s first and foremost emphasis is on its employees. “Some of our employees have been here for more than 30 years. We have grown from within. We promote from within,” he says. “People stay with us because we do what we say we’re going to do.” Employee perks include an annual golf tournament, support of employee community activities and an annual Jones Day at Hershey Park. “They close the park for us and we take all of our employees, their families and friends to the park on that day,” Jones says. The total number of people Jones has hosted at Hershey in any given year has been as high as 1,800.
In the day-to-day business, Jones says, “Everyone has to row the boat in the same direction. We have to stay together. It’s the little things that count.” He explains that customer satisfaction scores are extremely important to vehicle manufacturers, and when everyone on the team is focused on the goals of the organization, it translates into sales and happy customers. “We have been the highest rated customer retailer in the country on the satisfaction surveys,” Kilby announces.
Jones and Kilby set the tone for their employees by being involved in the business. One of the owners is on-site at Jones Automotive every single day, and the executives make themselves accessible to employees and customers. The organization’s six new car showrooms and three pre-owned super stores are housed in modern, state-of-the art buildings that showcase the vehicles. Customers entering each showroom are welcomed by a host or hostess who guides them to their destination. In the Toyota showroom, an early model Ford, looks stately on the floor, a remembrance of the early days of Jones Motor Company. Jones and Kilby agree that the world of automobile sales has evolved, with the internet being one of the biggest challenges for them. Not only are customers arming themselves with information prior to visiting the showrooms, they are also well aware of the competition. “We have to embrace it and adapt to it,” says Kilby. “Customers are savvy with their knowledge. We have to stay competitive and focused on our employees and customers every day.”
The “Jones for a Lifetime” program is one of the differentiators for Jones Automotive. It’s not simply a slogan. The program addresses customer care with additional amenities designed for convenience and
comfort, including free oil changes, free manicures and free car washes for customers, as well as a guaranteed engine for life. Jones Automotive has six service departments with 154 service bays, servicing up to 700 cars a day. Customers who require service or vehicle checks will enjoy fresh-baked cookies delivered daily by Klein’s Shoprite Markets and shuttle service around the grounds. The rental department offers 300 rental cars, and customers can meet with Allstate Insurance representatives on-site who sell auto insurance, homeowners insurance and more. “People feel that we genuinely care, because we treat them like family,” Jones said. “Every customer is important.”
Looking ahead to the next 100 years, Jones says his primary goal is to “Stay healthy.” Whether he means himself, his business, or both, is unclear, but he adds, “I want to make sure the business continues to run and I want to keep it running.”
Kilby says the community has supported the business over the last century, and Jones Automotive has been able to give back to the community in a wide variety of ways. “We are involved in many charities and community events. Our employees sit on the boards of many organizations and volunteer throughout the county,” he says.
Jones sticks to his message on commitment. He emphasizes, “We are a family-owned and operated business, and we built the business on integrity.” I95
100 YEARS OF COMMITMENT
1917 – Columbus McVey (CM) Jones opens an authorized Ford Repair Center in Fig, N.C.
1938 – CM Jones opens a garage and gas station in Conowingo, Md., called the Jones Motor Company
1939 – The garage becomes a Studebaker sales and service center and is taken over by CM’s son, Vernon
1965 – The Jones Motor Company is moved toBel Air, Md., and Vernon opens a Plymouth franchise
1967 – The Jones Motor Company opens the first Toyota dealership in Maryland
1968 – The Jones Motor Company added Datsun (now Nissan) to its franchise list
1972 – Subaru becomes part of the Jones Motor Company
1973 – The new Jones Chrysler building opens on Bel Air Road in Bel Air, Md., and the business offers Chrysler, Plymouth, Toyota, GMC Trucks, Nissan and Subaru all in one location. Jones Junction is born.
1983 – The Kilby family joins forces with the Jones family
1997 – The company purchases a Hyundai franchise and builds a new showroom on its campus
2013 – The Kia franchise becomes part of Jones Junction dealerships
2015 – The Jones Preowned Supercenter opens at Jones Junction
2017 – Jones Automotive celebrates 100 years of commitment, service and integrity