“Hi, this is Rick Case,” is a very familiar line for a lot of people, from TV commercials and license plate frames to mega dealerships and philanthropic events, Rick Case is not just a name but rather an iconic-successful brand created by the marketing guru himself.
On September 21, at age 77, Rick Case, CEO and Founder of The Rick Case Automotive Group, known as a catalyst in the automotive industry but also with a passion for giving back to the community, passed away peacefully in his home surrounded by his family after a short battle with an aggressive form of cancer.
Here’s how the Rick Case story began:
At age 9, Rick Case’s enthusiasm for sales started with a newspaper delivery route. A single route was not enough, he wanted to sell in volume, so he took on more routes and hired delivery boys to make his deliveries. He was making money “but I didn’t have to go out in the rain to make deliveries”. At 14 Rick purchased a used car, fixed it up and put a “For Sale” sign on it in his parent’s driveway in Akron Ohio, it sold within days and at that moment his passion for car sales began. He then started a used car reconditioning business before he was old enough to drive, “I had to hire older guys to shuttle the cars around”. At age 19, Rick operated his first used car lot all by himself, Moxie Motors in Akron. He sold cars during the day and got cars ready at night. He was living the American dream that hard, honest work would bring prosperity. He loved the excitement of selling and wanted to sell in big volume, so he opened a color tv store when they were first introduced. Then in 1965 he saw the demand for motorcycles growing so jumped into that industry as well as opening the first Toyota store in 1966. Even a tragic accident did not slow down Rick’s ambition to succeed at his goals. 1970 a fire started in one of his service departments and he tried to put it out, there was an explosion which caused 3rd degree burns covering much of his body. He was able to escape through a small open window and a customer drove him to the hospital. It took him months to recover but one of his life’s lessons was, “if you want to succeed you will overcome anything,” so he turned his hospital room into his office which hosted managers’ meetings and sales calls.
Motorcycle Sales – World’s Largest Motorcycle Dealer:
What fueled Rick was his competitive drive to break records, he would create goals for himself that other dealers would have thought impossible. At 29, Rick owned and operated a multi-million-dollar chain of motorcycle stores. He developed the first marketing strategy to sell motorcycles in big volume in the 60s and became the world’s largest volume Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha, Suzuki, Vespa motorcycle dealer throughout the 70s. Operating 14 dealerships that sold motorcycles, mopeds, and bicycles throughout Ohio. Rick was always involved in helping his community. In 1981 the idea was born for the “Rick Case Bikes for Kids” program. He would ask the community to drop off their old bicycles to any of his 14 dealerships, his stores would fix them and deliver them to organizations that supported children who would not otherwise have the opportunity to have a bike in time for the holidays. This year is the 39th year of this program having given over 100,000 bikes to date.
A True Pioneer – Introducing new automotive brands to the U.S. market:
Rick was well known as one of the most successful retail pioneers of new car brands in the U.S. Throughout his career he took on the challenge of investing in and introducing new brands to the U.S. market including Toyota, FIAT, Honda, Lancia, Isuzu, Acura, Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Kia and Smart Car. He started selling Honda’s in Akron, Ohio in 1972 and became the largest volume dealer in the nation his first month in business. To this day he still holds the world record for selling the most Honda cars in one month; 1,222. Rick also holds the volume record for Acura, Fiat and Honda Motorcycles. Was the world’s largest volume Acura dealer 10 years in a row and when Hyundai was introduced in 1986, he immediately became the nation’s largest volume dealer and held that title for years. Today, with many brands, his dealerships’ sales volume continues to rank top in the nation.
Rita & Rick Case:
Rick met Rita at a Honda convention in 1977. Rita ran her parents’ Honda car and motorcycle dealership in Santa Rosa, California. It was love at first site for Rick, he had to close the most important sale of his life; getting Rita to say “yes”, leave her dealership and move to Akron, Ohio. They married in 1980, sharing the same passion for the industry and the rest has been history. Together they have built an automotive empire that would be respected in the industry as one of the highest volume and best operated groups in the country. Rick CEO and Rita COO, for 40 years working as an unstoppable team always leading by example. “Rick and Rita intend to be #1 at everything they start, and they succeed time and time again. As a team, and individually, you couldn’t ask for better business partners or competitors. First class all the way”- Roger Penske, Chairman, Penske Corporation.
Created the 10-year / 100,000-mile Warranty:
One of Rick’s many legacies will be when Hyundai was failing in the U.S. market in 1996 due to a bad reputation for poor quality, he presented to their top leadership a very bold and very confident solution for a 10-year 100,000-mile warranty. He knew if Hyundai did not do something to show product confidence, they would have to leave the U.S., Rick’s idea saved Hyundai and later became a standard warranty for many manufactures.
The Ultimate Marketing Guru:
Rick was a master at creative marketing and always came up with outside the box ideas to satisfy his burning desire to be #1 in everything he did. He was a very confident salesman that knew putting your customer first is what will make your business the best, in turn putting customer convenience as the most important concept in his marketing strategy. Rick continued to invest in his business growth year-after-year. He built the world’s largest dealerships; for example, the only eight-story dealership where the showroom elevator conveniently takes the customer to the designated floor displaying the specific model they are shopping for, saving the customer and sales person time from having to search through the lot. He was an innovator for the retail auto industry, as well as a founder of some of the most successful, elite, and unique annual philanthropic events, most celebrating over 30 years. Rick always had a new idea, and the rare ability to motivate a team to follow his lead and execute his plan to achieve his fundraising goals. His enthusiasm and passion for his ideas were contagious. His endless positive energy, work ethic and personal commitment to “never take no for an answer” was his formula for success. Rick would always say “persistence removes resistance”.
“Entrepreneurs are the artists of the business world, or the blank space. There’s nothing happening and an entrepreneur comes along and says, ‘Aha! I see how to make this magic happen.’ And they bring it about. So, it’s about creativity in business; it’s an artistic ability. And Rick Case has that – he has it in spades.” – Mike Jackson, Chairman & CEO, Autonation
Autobiography, “Our Customers Our Friends”:
Rick wrote a book in 2012 to celebrate his 50 years as a car dealer, a story of his career, “Our Customers Our Friends.” Being the best is not easy. It requires dedication, hard work, passion, and a plan to sell more than anybody else. With a work culture that understands “treating your customer as your best friend” which has been the Rick Case Automotive Group mission statement for 40 years. It is a simple to understand way of doing great business, which is one reason why Rick Case is one of the most successful car dealers in America and was the first dealer ever to receive the J.D. Power Customer Service Award. “Part of Rick’s success in selling is that he genuinely cares about the customer, really thinks like a customer, and treats the customer as he would like to be treated. That’s where Rick comes from.” -Mike Jackson, Chairman & CEO, Autonation
Everyone always asked him how he could accomplish so much, like most successful entrepreneurs he would start early, plan his day, and work his plan. Rick would always say “I am just a car salesman from Akron, Ohio with a big dream”. He always showed appreciation to his family, business associates and communities; all those who helped him achieve those dreams.
*A complimentary copy of the book is available at all Rick Case Automotive dealerships.
2020 Marks the 59th Anniversary of Rick Case Automotive Group:
The Rick Case Automotive group is celebrating its 59th year in business and is home to over 1,300 associates. Rick was the CEO of the group’s operations until his passing. Rick’s legacy and his Automotive empire will continue with the same passion for customer treatment, same persistence for volume success and same appreciation for an industry that provides every individual with personal freedom. His wife and business partner Rita, COO of the Rick Case Automotive Group, along with their children Ryan and Raquel, active in leadership roles, are committed to keeping Rick’s 59 years of building the “Rick Case” brand a business and community success. Rick proposed one last challenge to them “Go ahead, beat my records and make me proud”. With 16 dealerships in Florida, Georgia and Ohio, the Rick Case Automotive Group sells Acura, Audi, Hyundai, Genesis, Volkswagen, Kia, Mazda, Fiat, Maserati, Alfa Romeo and Honda Automobiles and Motorcycles.
“There are a lot of car dealerships around, but some just perform better than others. That’s because those dealers have figured how to innovate to stay ahead of the competition in every aspect of their business. That’s Rick Case.”
– H. Wayne Huizenga, Founder, Autonation, Blockbuster Entertainment and Waste Management, Inc.
Community & Charity Support:
Boys & Girls Clubs; Habitat for Humanity; Nova Southeastern University; American Heart Association; American Cancer Association; Cleveland Clinic; Jack & Jill’s Children’s Center; just to name a few. Rick was deeply committed to community improvement and was well known for giving his time, business experience and resources to improve community organizations. Rick had a passion for creating opportunities for people and providing them with the tools to be successful in life. He created opportunities for his friends to give back to the community, kids to receive an education, families to own a home, and associates to provide for their families.
Top Awards & Recognitions:
- 2001 Rick Case inducted into the Entrepreneurial Hall of Fame of Nova University Wayne Huizenga Graduate School of Business and Entrepreneurship
- 2004 Rita and Rick Case presented in New York City the USA Today and the National Automobile Dealer Association 2003 National Dealer Innovation Award
- 2006 Rick Case presented with the Time Magazine Dealer of the Year Award
- 2011 Rita and Rick Case honored as Entrepreneurs of the Year by Ernst & Young
- 2013 Rita and Rick Case presented the 2013 All-Star Dealer Award by Automotive News
- 2019 Rita and Rick Case were presented the 2019 Honda President’s Award
-Largest dealer in the country to ever receive this award 12 years in a row-
Richard (Rick) James Case was born October 22, 1942 in Akron, Ohio to parents Richard and Eva, and the oldest of four boys. All preceded Rick in death. Rick is survived by his wife of 40 years, Rita; son and daughter-in-law, Rick and Christine Case; son and daughter-in-law, Ryan and Francesca Case; daughter and son-in-law, Raquel and Greg Travaline and 5 grandchildren. He will be remembered by his family as a pinnacle of positive energy who always motivated them be the very best and to do what you love so you never feel like you worked a day in your life. Rick was a proud father and gramps and loved to plan fun family trips and bring everyone together. He loved his wife and children with all his heart.
“Rick had the most amazing mind for problem solving. He set his goals so high, most could not dream that big. His work ethic and passion to succeed was very intense and always had me chasing to keep up. He always treated me as his equal and allowed me to share in his spotlight of success. Let there be no doubt, Rick created, built, and operated his company with a single passion to be the biggest and best. He spent hours every day educating himself on the latest information about the auto industry and I learned from him every day. I will miss our morning meetings and sharing our “to do list”. He told me he had no doubt I could continue our business success without him. I trust his confidence in me and will make him proud as will our children. He was a wonderful husband and loving father. I will miss him so much; he was truly one of a kind and always so positive. I’m so proud of him and thankful to have shared 40 years with such a special, caring, and supportive husband.” – Rita Case
Jay Leno’s Tribute
Donations in Memory of Rick Case:
A private ceremony will be held for immediate family with a “celebration of life” in the future. Rick believed that education is the greatest gift you can give someone. Memorial donations may be made in his honor supporting the Rick Case Educational Scholarship Fund benefiting the Boys & Girls Clubs of Broward County (BGCBC). BGCBC headquarters is located at 877 N.W. 61st Street #100, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33309, or email for gift instructions to Attn: Kerry Becker / email@example.com.
If you would like to send the family a personal message and or any photos of Rick, please send to firstname.lastname@example.org .