March 4, 2010

Car dealer celebrates 55 yearsMorong Falmouth is the oldest Volkswagen dealer in Maine


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Gordon Chibroski

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Gordon Chibroski

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Staff Writer

The Morong Falmouth car dealership is about to celebrate 55 years of selling Volkswagens, an impressive milestone in an industry that has been marked by consolidation and transformed by technology.

The dealer of Volkswagens, Mazdas, Porsches and Audis was the first to introduce foreign cars in Maine. It is the oldest Volkswagen dealer in Maine and one of the five oldest in the United States.

Owners Bill and Peter Sowles say they pride themselves on selling customers high-quality vehicles and good service -- a business practice started by their father, Ken Sowles, who founded the dealership in 1950.

A celebration is planned from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the dealership on Route 1. There may be some vintage cars, as well as food and prizes.

''We are encouraging customers, friends and family to come and bring their cars,'' said Peter Sowles. ''That's what we're all about. We feel our product is more than just a car -- our customers take a lot of pride in their cars.''

Peter Sowles began selling cars with his father in 1976. He played in the showroom as a young boy, and he remembers playing in his father's 1963 Porsches.

''It was a great playground for my friends and I To get in a brand new car and pretend that we were driving,'' he said. ''I've always liked cars, especially the ones we sell.''

The dealership began in a small body shop in South Portland. In 1960, Ken Sowles moved his fleet of foreign cars to a bigger facility on Forest Avenue in Portland. As demand increased, he formed Porsche Audi on Route One in Falmouth in 1971.

Today, Morong has another dealership in Brunswick.

It's not unusual for a family-owned dealership to last as long as Morong has, said Tom Brown, executive director of the Maine Automobile Dealers Association.

Dealerships like Pape Chevrolet and the Bill Dodge Group have been operating for about 50 years. Hight Chevrolet Pontiac Buick GMC in Skowhegan has been operating for close to 100 years, Brown said.

''It's the type of business that gets in your blood,'' Brown said.

Peter Sowles attributed Morong's success to the practices passed on by their father, who died in 1997.

''My father was the most honest and hardworking person I knew,'' Peter Sowles said. ''I picked up his work ethic and continue to operate that way today.''

The auto industry, which has been hammered by the recession and sporadic increases in gas prices, was helped by the federal ''Cash for Clunkers'' program, which boosted auto sales nationwide.

Morong sold 44 cars in Falmouth and 18 in Brunswick during the program.

Sowles said many customers are choosing fuel-efficient cars. He said Morong sold out of the Volkswagen TDI, a turbo diesel car that gets close to 50 miles per gallon.

Sowles said he thinks his father would be proud of the improvements he and his brother have made to the dealership.

''He would also be proud that his family is still involved.''

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

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Gordon Chibroski


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