The year was 1919 and four brothers decided to venture into the burgeoning automobile industry just as it was about to really boom. Percy, Kelly, Freeman and Harry Short formed Short Brothers Motor Co. in Owensboro, Ky., just across the Ohio River from Indiana. They signed a contract to sell Scripps Booth Automobiles and Stevens Saline Six Vehicles, and purchased a property on Allen Street in the downtown area.
In early 1920, they signed a contract to sell vehicles from the Chevrolet Motor Co. The first Chevy arrived on February 2 and was later sold to the Rev. Carl Gregory of the Settle Memorial Methodist Church, marking the first sale of an enclosed automobile in western Kentucky. Sales volume for the year was 24 new vehicles sold for a total of $17,880.
By 1934, the annual sales volume had risen to 306 new vehicles and 438 used. Total sales that year were $344,781. Around this time, Percy’s son, Don Moore Sr., joined the group.
In the mid-1950s, Cadillac was added to the company’s vehicle lines, and near the end of the decade Don Moore Jr. entered the business after graduating from the University of Kentucky.
After Percy died in 1961, Don Sr. became company president. Eight years later, Don Sr. died of cancer, and son Don Jr. took over as company president and dealer of record for General Motors. GM recommended that the company’s name be changed to Don Moore Chevrolet-Cadillac.
The name change became official in 1970, as the company developed a brand-new new marketing strategy, which included television ads. On January 19, Don Jr. made his TV ad debut with a 10-second message: “At Don Moore Chevrolet we have the hottest deals around. Come on down and help cool us off.”
This spot was written by H. Jackson Brown from Nashville, author of the best-selling Life’s Little Instruction Book and the subsequent best-selling Life’s Little… book series. It launched a creative marketing era for the Don Moore organization that continued through the 1970s.
In 1986, in order to stretch a 23-second commercial to 30 seconds, Brown added “It’s Hot Don” and “You can say that again” to the script of a “Sizzlin’ Summer Savings” commercial. “It’s Hot Don” became a common regional saying and was later highlighted nationally as the most-recognized regional tagline of any commercial in the nation by a few top-of-mind awareness studies.
Like father, like son, Don Moore III joined the firm—in May 1982—after graduating from the University of Kentucky. In July 1983, Don Jr. decided to work full-time in the farming industry, and Don III was named dealership general manager.
The Company’s Consolidation and Growth
1986: Purchased Sturgeon Pontiac-Nissan. This marked the beginning of Riverview Pontiac-Nissan.
1992: Added Mitsubishi to its downtown location.
1993: Purchased Van Slyke Toyota. This acquisition included a new location on Frederica Street. Riverview Pontiac-Nissan relocated there and the AutoMall was established.
1996: To complete a required GM dealership reorganization, Don III bought Feldhaus Oldsmobile-Honda. Honda relocated to the AutoMall location, and Oldsmobile moved downtown. Don III also agreed to sell Roberts Motors, the Pontiac franchise.
2000: Purchased Thompson Ford-Mercury-Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep in Hartford, Ky. David Moore (Don III’s brother) became dealer and operating partner.
2005: Purchased the Tapp Motor property on South Frederica Street.
2006: Purchased an open Hyundai franchise in Owensboro.
2011: Purchased Roberts Buick-GMC and added it to the new Don Moore Chevrolet-Cadillac facility in Owensboro.
Since 2017, John Moore has been president and general manager of the Don Moore Automotive Group, with David serving as executive vice president of fixed operations.
Today, David, Don and John operate a total of six dealerships and 12 franchises (Buick, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, GMC, Honda, Hyundai, Jeep, Nissan, Ram and Toyota).
The Don Moore Automotive Group is a five-generation family business that has grown to $215 million in annual sales and employs more than 300 people. The dealership group sells over 2,200 new and 3,000 used vehicles a year. More than 20,000 people visit the group annually for service, parts and sales.
“On August 20, 1919, our family opened the doors to sell and service the public's automotive needs,” John says. “Today, we open our doors for the same reasons.”
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