First 2004 F150 delivered to loyal Suffolk Ford customer

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 6, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Ronnie Rountree was excited when he was chosen to be the first to accept delivery of the new 2004 F-150 Ford pickup truck. It was built &uot;Ford tough&uot; by the skilled hands at Ford’s Norfolk plant, and while Rountree was smiling about his new F-150 he was almost as pleased by a specially signed manufacturer’s suggested retail price sticker.

That sticker was signed by Henry Ford’s grandson, William &uot;Bill&uot; Ford, and by several other people important to the Ford family, including Tom Barton and his two sons, Tom Barton III and Bob Barton.

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&uot;Ronnie has purchased more vehicles than I can remember from Barton Ford over the years,&uot; said Tom Barton, president and CEO of Barton Ford at 1600 North Main Street and Beach Ford in Virginia Beach. &uot;We got word that we would deliver the world’s first 2004 F-150, and that the Norfolk plant would build it because of the quality of the workforce there. They have a reputation for extremely high quality work and they were certainly most deserving of the honor of building the first 2004 model.&uot;

Barton said when Rountree came to Beach Ford to accept delivery on the F-150, he advised him to save the sticker as a collector’s item.

&uot;Ronnie asked if the Barton family could sign the sticker,&uot; said Barton. &uot;I told him that not only would we sign it, but I would get it signed by the CEO of the entire Ford Motor Co., Bill Ford, and the President of the Ford Division of the company, Steve Lyons. I also drove the sticker over to the Norfolk assembly plant so that Mike Hom, the plant manager, could sign it.&uot;

Barton then had the sticker placed in Plexi-glass and mounted on a plaque to preserve it. He and his two sons, both vice presidents of the dealerships, met with Rountree at the North Main Street store in Suffolk to deliver the plaque.

Rountree usually shops Barton Ford Suffolk store for his vehicles – he’s purchased more than 20 from the Barton family – but to pick up the first one delivered, he drove his Barton Lincoln LS over to Beach Ford.

&uot;He thought he would just do the paperwork and send someone to pick up the F-150 later,&uot; said Tom Barton. &uot;We told him he had to take delivery right there, so he drove his new pickup the 45 miles back to his home in Suffolk and I followed him in the Lincoln LS. After taking me on a tour of his home and beautiful yard, one of my people came to pick me up.&uot;

Barton also noted that when the President of the Ford Division of Ford Motors, Lyons, heard that a man named Ronnie Rountree had been chosen to accept delivery on the first F-150 out of the gates, he remarked, &uot;What an all-American name! Just like Beach and Barton Ford – all-American!&uot;

Since 1991, when the Barton family brought its dealership to Suffolk with former Gov. Mills E. Godwin present for the grand opening, Rountree has been a loyal customer.

&uot;He’s been a wonderful friend, also,&uot; said Barton. &uot;In fact, all the people of Suffolk have been great to Barton Ford and the Barton family.&uot;

Barton also noted that the Ford dealership in Suffolk has just finished opening their new 82,000 square foot customer care and collision center. That facility is located between the sales center and VDOT’s residency.

Tom Barton III said his family truly appreciates friends like Rountree, a man he met while they participated in a golf tournament about 10-years ago.

&uot;We talked and hit it off and his values are similar to our families and that’s how it all began,&uot; said Barton.

Rountree, on the other hand, said it’s hard to contain all the p positive adjectives he could use in describing the Barton family and their dealerships.

Rountree, owner and president of Rountree Construction at 3909 Nansemond Parkway, and his wife both drive Fords; she drives the Lincoln LS most of the time. Both tell their friends about Barton Ford and of course they advise their children to buy from the Barton family. Needless to say, Rountree appreciates the keepsake of his 2004 Ford F-150 purchase.

&uot;The plaque with the signed sticker is at home in my study and it has a place of honor on the wall,&uot; said Rountree. &uot;That sticker makes me believe that Tom Barton meant what he said about me, that I was his son’s second father. &uot;It made me feel that Ford Motors not wants to sell to their customers, but that they also care about their customers. I’ve truly enjoyed driving Ford pickups and the Lincoln LS, the Town Car, and other Fords, but when I saw the sticker with Bill Ford’s signature and that of Steve Lyons, president of the Ford Division, I knew I would always be a Ford customer and in particular a Barton Ford customer. That family is so nice… you can’t use enough superlatives to describe the entire family.&uot;

Rountree also noted that Barton and Beach Ford personnel are all just like the family – they offer personal service to every customer.

&uot;It’s not just the owners but everyone from the floor sweeper on up,&uot; said Rountree. &uot;They are in the business to sell vehicles but they don’t let it stop there. They offer friendly and courteous service and their staff are the most polite people I’ve ever encountered in a business. When you go into a dealership, you are naturally uptight because next to your home, it’s the second largest investment you’ll ever make. Even when you go into the collision center they understand that you’ve suffered a traumatic experience and they set your mind at ease and mark sure you understand every detail of the repairs that they are going to make. I truly believe they (Barton Ford) are one of the greatest assets to the city of Suffolk.&uot;

Since the launch of the all-new 2004 F-150 on Sept. 4, consumers have flooded Ford dealer showrooms across the country, and in just one month, nearly 82,000 of those truck shoppers drove home in a new F-Series pickup. The new 2004 F-150 set September sales records.

F-Series Sales are up 31 percent; making September the best in the vehicle’s history. Already America’s reigning sales leader – its best-selling truck for 26 years and best-selling vehicle for 21 years – F-Series is still holding its ground in an increasingly competitive market.

On average, dealers are selling the new F-150 within six days of receiving the truck from Ford, according to Lyons.