Shimkat expands its offerings

FD firm now sells and services Ram commercial trucks

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Shimkat Motors co-owners Bruce Shimkat, at left, Bill Shimkat and Ed Shimkat Jr. pose with a brand new Dodge Ram 1500 ProMaster in their showroom recently as general sales manager T.J. Pingle looks on from behind. Shimkat has recently started selling the Ram commercial vehicles and have added a special service bay and hoist larger than standard sized trucks.

There’s an important change at Fort Dodge’s oldest automobile dealership. For the first time in its 70-year history, Shimkat Motor Co., 3126 Fifth Ave. S., is now selling and servicing commercial trucks.

“Starting in September we acquired the Business Link franchise for Chrysler’s commercial division,” said T.J. Pingel, the dealership’s general sales manager. “What that entails is the large Ram ProMaster cargo vans. It also includes the heaviest duty trucks that are available to us from Ram. These versatile vehicles can be transformed into crane trucks, buses, campers. They are designed to be very customizable. We are excited about having more products to share.”

Ed Shimkat, vice president of Shimkat Motor Co. and a co-owner, said adding commercial trucks to the array of Chrysler products the business handles has been under consideration for a number of years.

“It’s been our goal since Chrysler started producing these vehicles to do this,” he said. “It’s a big step. It’s always been on the back burner as something we wanted. Chrysler came to us and made it work. It’s exciting.”

According to Pingel, Chrysler had identified the north central Iowa as an underserved marketplace for RAM vehicles.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Shimkat Motors co-owner Bill Shimkat, at left, along with T.J. Pingle, general sales manager, look over the new hoist being installed for working on their recently added line of Dodge Ram commercial trucks.

“They had been doing research and there is a huge market for commercial vehicles and there was not a dealer here for these commercial vehicles,” he said. “They said, we would really like you to do this.”

Shimkat said an array of factors made now the ideal time for his family’s enterprise to enter the commercial vehicle arena.

“It’s the perfect time,” he said. “Everything is happening and expanding around Fort Dodge.”

Pingel seconded that point.

“The investment seemed right,” he said. “Fort Dodge is growing right now. The commercial industries are booming. We have housing needs that are going to be fulfilled here soon. Businesses are coming to town. So the commercial aspect of Fort Dodge is amazing right now. There is no better time to get into commercial vehicle sales.”

To be acquire the Business Link franchise, Shimkat Motor Co. had to make a significant financial investment. Shimkat said the service department had to be upgraded and reworked to accommodate the larger vehicles. As one example, the business had to acquire and install a 30,000-pound hoist. Additionally, an array of trucks had to be added to the inventory on the sales lot. Folks driving along Fifth Avenue South — the city’s Corridor of Commerce — will see some of them near the roadway.

“It took a large investment just to have these things on the lot,” Pingel said.

Training regarding this new product line was also required.

“The service department had to be trained as well as the salespeople,” Shimkat said. “Eventually, we are going to get a dedicated salesperson. We’re feeling the market out.”

As a result of adding Ram trucks to its lineup, Shimkat said it is now possible for local businesses to purchase the vehicles they need right here in Fort Dodge and have service done here as well.

Some of the trucks are quite expensive, but both Shimkat and Pingel stressed that there are many highly affordable options they said are ideal for small business applications.

“That’s what is so cool about it,” Pingel said. “It can truly be the tool someone needs to grow a business to become more successful.”

Adding Chrysler’s commercial truck line to its offerings will give Shimkat Motor Co. a broader presence throughout north central Iowa.

“With Business Link, dealers have areas of influence,” Shimkat said. “Because there are fewer Business Link dealers they have to service a larger area.”

About Shimkat Motor Co.

Brothers Edward and George Shimkat opened a DeSoto and Plymouth dealership on June 1, 1947. They operated out of a temporary headquarters while a new building was being readied at 1225 Second Ave. S. That address was the home of Shimkat Motor Co. for more than five decades. In 2004, the company moved to 3126 Fifth Ave. S.

Three generations of Shimkats have built the enterprise that bears the family name into a dramatic success story. Today the company is owned by Bruce Shimkat and nephews Ed Shimkat and Bill Shimkat. All three are descendants of co-founder Edward Shimkat.

Shimkat Motor Co. sells a mix of new and used vehicles. Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram are brands featured for customers seeking a brand new car or truck.

The automotive world is greatly changed from the marketplace the company’s original owners navigated so skillfully seven decades ago. The auto brands they sold — Plymouth and DeSoto — are now just memories. While Chrysler Corp. cars and trucks are still featured, today’s computerized vehicles make the automobiles of the 1940s and 1950s seem quite primitive in comparison.

Two things, however, remain at the heart of the Shimkat Motor Co. story. First, and most importantly, the Shimkat family retains a hands-on involvement in the operation of the company. Secondly, there is an aggressive commitment to keeping the business in sync with the latest trends in a rapidly evolving automotive sales and service world.

Ed Shimkat said the family’s immersion in the day-to-day management of the business has been a key to the company’s success and helps make it an appealing place for customers to buy a vehicle or get service.

That tradition of friendly, personalized attention may be one of the reasons Shimkat Motor Co. is highly regarded by Chrysler Corp. officials. This year Chrysler started selecting dealerships for special recognition through it Customer First Award of Excellence. Only four Iowa dealerships were selected to receive this honor in its inaugural year. Shimkat Motor Co. was one of them.