Since 1983, Kokanee Ford and Kemlee Equipment Ltd. have been owned and operated by the Kemle family. Phil and Donna were joined by their son, Darrell, that year, shortly after they restarted a Ford dealership that had been abandoned by its previous owner.
Now, 32 years later, the building is undergoing a major facelift, something that Darrell has been planning for several years. A new facade gives the building a bright, modern look and inside new lighting and ceilings will contribute to an overall modernization.
“We’re going to be here for a long time,” he says. “The new look will add to customer appeal and also provide our staff with a better facility to work in.”
Darrell came back home to Creston after working in Calgary when the economy went sour in 1982. He planned to spend the summer working with his brother on the family farm. Instead, his dad recruited him to sell farm equipment and he spent days out of each week travelling throughout the Kootenays. In 1986, he took over as sales manager of Kokanee Ford when the previous manager left. Eleven years later, he started managing both the automotive and farm sides of the business when Phil and Donna wanted to spend winters in Arizona.
Among the changes he has experienced as manager of a Ford dealership, he said, was the computerization of Ford Motor Credit, which once had offices in cities across the continent.
“That left us dealers to maintain all customer services in our communities,” he said.
Ford, once the second largest of North American’s Big Three vehicle manufacturers, now outsells its two domestic competitors combined, Darrell says. And the progress in technology has been astonishing. Where other markets, like Australia and Europe, once had vehicles designed specifically for them, Ford has shifted to create global products, saving in manufacturing costs and allowing greater focus on design and technology.
Safety and entertainment technology have made extraordinary strides, says newly appointed sales and marketing manager Mike Daybell. He describes a variable cruise control system that slows the vehicle to match the speed of a vehicle in front, preventing rear-end collisions. And sensors that correct steering when the driver allows the vehicle to wander across highway lane lines, even warning the driver with a warning light and vibrating seat, signals that he or she might be getting tired.
As Darrell and Mike sit in the midst of renovations, they agree that the future is bright for Ford, and for vehicle shoppers in Creston.
“All dealers, big and small, in cities or towns, get vehicles for the same price,” Darrell says. “So when we say we will not be undersold it’s not just an idle promise. We will not be undersold. Period.”