The Painter family’s fight to retain their Chrysler dealerships

The Painter family has been in the Chrysler business in Utah for 65 years, and both of the family’s dealerships were among the 789 terminated by Chrysler. Phil Painter has long been the force behind the annual Mopars at the Strip event in Las Vegas, so Mopar Max has special interest in what happens to his family business. He graciously agreed to share the story of his family’s dealerships as they worked through the process of trying to get back into the Chrysler family.


Jim and Zoma Painter at the St. George dealership.

Painter Motor Company was founded in June 1945 by brothers Fred and Reese Painter in Nephi, Utah. The first building was a Sinclair service station where the Painters also sold gasoline. Since no new cars were available because of World War II, used vehicle sales and repairs were what got the business started.

In 1946 the Painters brought some nearby property and built their own building. They secured Chrysler-Plymouth and GMC Truck franchises. The quota was two Plymouths and one Chrysler per month. Fred was the salesman and general manager and Reese was the shop foreman.

In 1961 Reese sold out to Fred, and Fred’s son Jim was taken in as a partner. By 1966 the business expanded. In 1977 the dealership, Painter Motor Co. at 1100 N. Main St. in Nephi, was built on five acres of land.

Jim decided to expand the business with a dealership in St. George, Utah, after a request from customers who had to make the 200-mile  drive to Nephi. In 1984 the Painters rented a closed Chrysler dealership in St. George, named it Painter Sun Country Chrysler and began winning back the customers -- there had been ten different Chrysler dealers in 10 years!

Over the years all ten of Jim’s sons worked at the dealerships at one time or another, including Phil. And over the years, the success came along. In 1987 Painter Motors in Nephi was the number one Dodge truck dealer in the country based on market penetration. Jim and sons Randy, Rod, and Pat won Chrysler’s Pentastar and 5 Star awards every year except one through 1996.

Fred Painter passed away in 1995 at age 88, after 50 years in the business.