Jacob, Frank, and Bob Boggus
Was he a visionary or just a good businessman? One thing for sure, James (J.) Lewis Boggus was a risk taker. The man was a rancher back in 1933. He had also been a bookkeeper turned salesman for a Ford dealership, selling Model Ts and perhaps the brand new 1933 Ford Cabriolet with either a trunk or rumble seat for $588.
Perhaps it was the thrill of seeing happy customers drive off in their modern vehicles, some with V8 engines. Whatever it was, J. Lewis Boggus sold his ranch and, partnering with the H-E-B Butt family, opened his first dealership in downtown Harlingen.
“We call him the smartest guy that was alive because he had a lot of forward-thinking ideas,” great grandson Jacob Boggus, general manager at Boggus Ford in Harlingen, said. “Somehow he knew there was going to be an expressway built in McAllen. He decided to start buying land near the expressway for a potential car dealership site.”
By the 1960s, the McAllen dealership had moved from downtown to their location by the expressway and son, Frank, had taken over the business after J. Lewis had passed.
“He ran the stores until twins, Bob and my dad Jack, took over in the mid 1980s and bought out the Butts. They’re still great friends,” said Jacob.
J. Lewis Sr.’s other son, J. Lewis Jr., had run a Corpus Christi dealership until he fell ill and they eventually sold that location.
After losing Jack in the mid 1990s, Bob oversaw both locations, moving the Harlingen dealership to the current location on the freeway in 2001. Jacob followed into the family business, starting to work there in the 4th grade.
“I loved office work, but at that age there’s not much to do. I would organize closets or whatever they asked,” he laughed. “I just enjoyed being around. I felt this was my place.”
It certainly has become his place. Perhaps that’s his great grandfather’s blood coursing through his veins.
Obtaining a degree in finance, he returned to the dealership, ready to conquer the world and take charge.
“Bob told me I needed to slow down and return to selling cars, but, unlike my summer part-time job, I would have regular hours,” Jacob related. “It was a real job and a 12-hour day, pretty customary in the business.”
Though his passion was there, his willingness not so much. Leaving for a short while to work at a bank, he came to a life changing realization. He belonged at the dealership, no matter what he had to do. And so his climb up the ladder would begin, only a lot slower.
First he was a Service Advisor working with customers who weren’t necessarily happy with their vehicle purchase.
“It was my first exposure to deal with upset customers. I had to learn how to mitigate an issue we couldn’t solve immediately. Learning to make a positive out of a negative situation, I started enjoying the position.”
Next he went to the parts department, his hardest challenge due to all the thousands of parts to learn. Moving into the Sales Department, he jumped at the chance to upgrade their internet involvement.
“I wanted to figure out how we could deal with these customers who are finding us via the Internet and maximize their experience with us,” Jacob said. “I feel fortunate I was in the business development center and had the opportunity to find a process to make the lead and the customer experience flow. It was very rewarding.”
In the Finance Department Jacob learned about loans, legalities, Federal and State regulations, selling insurance, and car and tire warranties. Again he was faced with the new normal.
As Sales Manager, he found modernizing was another huge challenge.
“I noticed a lot of inefficiencies and then the pandemic hit. Everything changed,” he said. “Only five percent of the people wanted to come in due to COVID. We had to figure out how to get them the information they needed and we needed to figure this out quickly.”
Going remote, using their website, video, and zoom, they did what most dealers are reluctant to do. They became more transparent with pricing and their finance department. Now everything goes through computer screens and emails.
“I loved setting this up because I think that’s where the industry needs to go anyway. Now, what you see online is what you get.”
Talking about moving to electric vehicles lights up Jacob again.
“A game changer that is helping us gain market share is that Ford has come out with electric trucks, vans and SUVs. They’re the only manufacturer that’s done that so far.”
Harlingen and McAllen are both certified electric dealerships with trained technicians and charging stations operating fully.
Expanding recently, adding a Chrysler/Dodge dealership in Brownsville, they plan to continue to grow their company. As General Manager, he’s committed to continue to upgrade and modernize the company as the needs arise, such as going paperless.
“Efficiency is my number one priorty. I love doing that. I want to make texting our customers a part of our day. Our slogan is It’s Better At Boggus for a reason. We want to make every single element better somehow for our customers.”
With some “firsts” planned soon for the Valley, the 300 employees continue to be part of this innovative 88-year-old company as it flourishes.
“At the end of the day, it’s not the car business, it’s not the service business – it’s the people business because without our customers, we are nothing. We remind ourselves of that daily.”
Leaning back in his chair, relaxed yet focused and confident, Jacob smiled. He would be off to a charity luncheon in a few minutes, always willing to continue to give back to the community that has given so much to Boggus Ford.