Kari Rihm, president and CEO of Rihm Kenworth in South St. Paul, Minn., is one of the nominees for 2022 Truck Dealer of the Year – a national award that recognizes commercial-truck dealers for business performance, industry and civic leadership and service to their community.
“The surest way to succeed in business is to stick to it. But Kari Rihm has done so much more than that,” said Jodie Teuton, former ATD chairwoman, current ATD Kenworth line representative and co-founder and vice president of Kenworth of Louisiana. “She has grown the business, explored new opportunities, and moved Rihm to the top of Kenworth dealers nationwide.”
Rihm became the unexpected owner of Rihm Kenworth in 2010 due to a tragic event: her husband John died from brain cancer just four months after being diagnosed. She had never worked at the dealership, having only served on the board of directors previously.
Despite her profound grief, Rihm got to know the business, asking questions about every department, being introduced to frontline employees and customers, and getting a feel for the fourth-generation family business. “After a few weeks, I could see the potential the company had if someone were willing to commit significant personal effort and financial resources to an entrepreneurial growth plan.”
When Rihm first inherited the business, she had three locations and was headquartered in a building that was built in 1949. Within nine months of inking her first three-year contract with Kenworth, Rihm had opened her fourth location and she began looking for new headquarters. In 2018, Rihm opened two facilities to house the newest, most modern and customer/employee centric truck dealerships in her market, moving from 27,000 square feet of space to a total of 140,000 square feet.
Since 2010, Rihm has increased total dealership sales by 248% and total dealership profits by 1,214%. Today, Rihm Kenworth has 274 employees across seven full-service sales, service and parts facilities in Minnesota and Wisconsin, in addition to leasing and rental subsidiaries, a body shop, a private label parts business and a truck parts export business.
Rihm is passionate about improving diversity, equity and inclusion in both her own dealership and across the trucking industry. “Trucking needs a strong workforce and to improve its image as one that is inviting to all,” she said. “The demography of the country is changing. We must not only adapt but embrace the emerging majorities.”
Rihm Kenworth is involved in a number of charitable initiatives, including serving on the United Hospital Foundation board of directors. “During my husband’s illness and treatment, the importance of having access to a highly effective, reliable, caring, and responsible experience became our focus. United Hospital in St. Paul served my husband and our family well,” she said. “The hospital has touched my family and my employees, and this is my way of giving back gratitude for what they have done for us.”
The national Truck Dealer of the Year award is sponsored by ATD, Heavy Duty Trucking magazine and Procede Software.
The nominees were selected by state, metro and national association leaders. A panel of judges from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business will evaluate the nominees and select a winner.
The winner will be announced during this year’s ATD Show opening general session on Thursday, March 10 from 4-5pm. ATD Show 2022 runs from Thursday, March 10 through Sunday, March 13, 2022 at the Encore Las Vegas. The four-day event runs concurrently with NADA Show 2022.
For more information and to register for ATD Show 2022, visit www.atdshow.org.
This is the third article in a four-part series highlighting the nominees for 2022 Truck Dealer of the Year.