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Question of the Day
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
As a 33-year-old, Floyd D. Akers viewed the Great Depression as an opportunity rather than an adversary.
Although he had a good job with GMAC during those early years of national economic uncertainty, he stayed on the lookout for some situation that would afford him the ability to go into business for himself. He got the chance in 1934, when one of his customers, the Washington, D.C., Cadillac Company, failed.
Mr. Akers knew that times were hard, and Cadillac represented the highest level of the automobile market. But he also knew that the country would get back on its feet, and discriminating buyers would always want the “best.”
It wasn’t long afterward that he bought the dealership and moved it to 1222 22nd St. NW, christening it “Capitol Cadillac.”
The dealership was housed in a four-story building that used the street level for its showroom and upper levels for offices, parts and shop facilities. A large elevator would transport cars from floor to floor. The building became John F. Kennedy’s Washington Headquarters during his presidential campaign, and it is still standing today, occupied by a government agency. The elevator still works, too.
Capitol Cadillac prospered through WWII chiefly because of service work, as there were no new cars produced from 1942 to 1945. In 1947, Mr. Akers added the Oldsmobile brand to the dealership and brought in his daughter Tomajean’s husband, Howard Jobe, to help manage the business.
By the 1960s, Cadillac sales were strong, and Capitol Cadillac was selling more than 100 cars each month. The company was a distributorship and as such started two other Cadillac stores: The Akers Cadillac store in Virginia and the Suburban Cadillac store in Montgomery County.
The Virginia store was run by Toliver Lindsay, who later bought it and renamed it. Paul Sheehan, who was married to Mr. Akers‘ daughter Shirley, managed the Montgomery County store, which was later taken over by former Capitol Cadillac salesman William Coleman, who renamed it Coleman Cadillac.
By the 1970s, the Cadillac Division of GM was encouraging its dealers to leave the city and establish themselves in the suburbs. Mr. Jobe, now in charge of Capitol, had the option to move the dealership either to Tyson’s Corner or to a Maryland location. He elected to bring the dealership to Beltsville, where it moved in 1979, believing the overall growth of Prince George’s County would prove worthwhile. Unfortunately, Mr. Akers didn’t live to see the completed dealership. He died in 1978.
According to Daniel Jobe, Mr. Jobe’s son and president of Capitol Cadillac, “The 1980s was a time that the Cadillac name no longer carried us. Aside from foreign competition, we had a 10-year run of poor products like the diesel, the V-8-6-4, V-6 and four-cylinder Cimarron. Because my father’s long-term vision included integrating other brands, we even tried selling the Sterling. That car proved to be a dismal failure, in part because of build-quality and in part because of multiple levels of service responsibility (British, Japanese). The Cadillac Division couldn’t have survived the 1980s and early 1990s without the dealership body they had. It was only their relationship with the customer that saw them through.”
By Tom Harris and Madhav Khandekar
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