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Used cars: The challenge is in the buying, not the selling

Auto broke Ron Shapland has been buying and selling cars at E.T. & Auto II next to Erickson Tire in Molalla for the past two years


by: JIM BESEDA/MOLALLA PIONEER - Local auto broker Ron Shapland joined forces with younger brother Rick and Gale Erickson to help turn Molalla's E.T. & Auto II into one of the area's major players in the used car business.Ron Shapland cringed the instant he heard the job title.

Used Car Salesman.

“I hate that term,” he said. “It has such a negative connotation.”

Shapland, 57, works with his younger brother Rick in partnership with Gale Erickson at the E.T. & Auto II used car lot that is a side business for the Erickson Tire Factory store at 517 N. Molalla Ave.

But he's not a used car salesman.

He's an “auto broker.”

“The real difference between being an auto broker and being a used car salesman is a broker buys and sells,” Shapland said. “As a salesman, I could go work anywhere, which I would never do. But I could go work on a lot and sell cars, and then my main job is just to sell you something, and there’s no fun in that to me.

“The challenging part here is to go find decent cars and make sure that you can fix them so you can turn around and sell them. In a small town, especially one where you grew up, word is going to get around real quick if you sell someone a lemon.”

Before Shapland got into the used car business, he spent 15 years working for Rockler, the Minnesota-based woodworking and hardware company with stores nationwide, including one in Beaverton Town Square Mall that Shapland helped open.

“I kept trying to get away, and they kept coaxing me back,” Shapland said.

Career change

Two years ago, he made his break from Rockler and joined forces with his brother and Erickson, injecting some fresh blood and fresh inventory into Erickson Tire's used car sales operation.

“Rick had his own mechanic shop for 15 years, and I grew up doing mechanic work, so between the two of us, we can drive a car around the block and figure out what we’re going to have to put into it in order to sell it.

“Honestly, it’s harder to buy than is to sell. Somebody can walk on the lot and say, ‘I’ll take it.’ That’s easy. That’s simple stuff. But getting a good car and fixing it so it is good … that’s where the brokering comes in.”

Shapland said in his first year on the lot, he helped move twice as many cars as the lot had sold the year before. His second year, the company saw another 28 percent increase.

“And this year has been strong,” he said. “Business is good.”

The lot is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. There are currently about 60 cars on the lot and most of them can be seen on the company’s website at www.etauto2.com

Shapland said about 60 percent of his sales are on site and the other 40 percent are outside sales.

“I use craigslist,” Shapland said. “Up until about two months ago, craigslist was free. Now, they’re charging us $5 per car, so I don’t put every car on there. I put the premium stuff on there — the stuff I know people are looking for — and that’s how I drive people to our website.”

Steady business

On average, Shapland said he sees about 25 customers visit the lot each week, and the lot sells between 11 and 15 cars a month.

“That’s very good,” he said. “It would never cut it on 82nd Avenue (in Portland) where you’d have such a big nut to crack, from your rent to all the overhead. But here, in small-town Molalla, it’s doable.”

Shapland recently sold an a four-door, Ford F-550, heavy-duty truck with a dump bed to someone from outside the area. He’d only had the truck for a week, making it one of the quickest turnaround stories on a small-town lot where the average shelf life for cars is about six months.

“They don’t even start making me nervous until they’ve been here a year,” Shapland said. “Once something has been on the lot a year, then I think, ‘Well, maybe we need to do something here.’”

An internet search for used car dealers in Molalla typically turns up four other options: JC Auto Connection, Mo Chevrolet Services, and Tony’s Export Wholesale Trucks on Molalla Avenue, and Bart Kimes Sales on South Wright Road in Dickey Prairie. But none of those dealers has a lot that compares with what E.T. & Auto II has in terms of stock on hand.

“Competition really wouldn’t bother us,” Shapland said. “I really wouldn’t have a problem if there were four or five more of us, because then it would give more people a reason to come in from out of town.”

Jim Beseda / jbeseda@molallapioneer

(503) 829-2301



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