This past week marked a milestone in the life of local businessman Robbie Franklin. He was honored by Toyota for 30 years of owning and operating a Toyota dealership, and his Franklin Toyota dealership was presented with the company’s prestigious President’s Award.
Franklin, who also owns Franklin Chevrolet in Statesboro, was very soft spoken about his recent recognition which is typical according to those who know him well.
“I have worked for Robbie for 33 years, and I don’t think I have ever known anyone as even tempered as he is,” said Dan Cook, who serves as vice president of Franklin’s automotive companies. “He takes his time and thinks before he says anything and that serves you well in this business. He is a quiet, thoughtful man.”
Franklin took over the Statesboro Franklin Chevrolet dealership from his father, Lehman Franklin, Sr., in 1967. He added the Franklin Toyota dealership in 1977 creating the Franklin Automotive Group. Franklin oversees both dealerships today, sometimes showing up to check on things as early as 4 a.m.
Sea Island Bank president, Wayne Akins, said he is not surprised by Franklin’s award noting Franklin’s tendency to check on his dealerships before the sun comes up.
“Having the opportunity to know Robbie Franklin over the past ten years as member of our board of directors, I know that he approaches everything he does with intensity and sincerity, so I’m certainly not surprised at the recognition that he has received,” Akins said. “He demonstrates that intensity by rising at a very early hour to start his day.”
Scott Gunnell is a district sales manager for Southeast Toyota. Gunnell presented Franklin with his 30 Year award and President’s award at a ceremony held this past Thursday at the Nessmith-Lane building on Georgia Southern’s campus.
“The President’s Award is an elite award that recognizes achievement and excellence in every department, in all aspects of the dealership’s operations,” Gunnell said. “Amazingly, Robbie’s dealership received this award the first year they were in their new dealership. That is very hard to do during a transition year such as the one they had.”
Gunnell said Franklin’s commitment to Toyota is equally noteworthy.
“Financially, Robbie made a huge commitment to Toyota and his local community when he built the new Toyota dealership on the Statesboro Bypass,” he said. “We are very happy that things have worked out so well for him.”
Glen Taunton serves as Franklin Toyota’s general manager. He has worked for Franklin for the past six years.
“I think one of the main reasons Robbie has done so well is that he always wants to do what is right for the customer,” Taunton said. “Frankly, car dealers aren’t always well spoken of. Robbie is different in that he operates above the public’s perception of your average car dealer. He is always going to do the right thing by his employees and his customers. I really think that is a big part of his success.”
Franklin is not very eager to talk about himself.
“I really don’t look at awards as something I did, I just try to encourage everyone to do the best possible job that they can, and to do the right thing,” Franklin said. “If you do that, then success should just follow, and we have been very blessed.”
Franklin said he is asked all of the time if he feels contradicted operating dealerships representing the two largest automakers in the world.
“I really never look at it that way,” Franklin said. “I just try and do a good job at both stores. To be honest with you, I have the best of both worlds. General Motors sells more cars than anybody domestically, and Toyota sells more worldwide.”
Franklin said he has seen new car sales change drastically over the years.
“When I first started, we would finance cars for 24 months,” he said. “People would trade in cars fairly regularly, now they don’t. Our sales have continued to increase because frankly, the area has continued to grow, and that is a good thing.”
Franklin is easy to find, splitting time between both dealerships. “Come on out and we’ll sell you a car,” he said.
Franklin is married to the former Karen Fussell. He has two children, Stephen Franklin, who works with his father, and Anna Franklin Wickman, who is married and lives in Tallahassee, Florida with her husband and twin, four-year-old sons.
Stephen Franklin said his father is a modest man who isn’t comfortable in the spotlight.
“My dad is kind of quiet and selfless,” Stephen Franklin said. “He treats everybody the same, with care and fairness.”