Every Subaru Sold In New England Comes From This Guy

Craig Fitzgerald

Craig Fitzgerald | Feb 08, 2016

Ernie Boch, Jr. created a lot of hubub recently when he was on CNN talking about his support for Donald Trump and rationalized making his choice for President: "It’s 2 a.m. and there’s a few girls at the bar, you have to go home with one of them,” Boch said. “So, you have to pick who you are with.”

You can hear those comments, and also Boch's story about how he got out of a ticket without having his driver's license with him becuase he was a Trump supporter here:

It's been reported widely since, but in almost every case, he's been referred to as a "car dealer." But Ernie Boch, Jr. is only tangentially a car dealer. He sold off most of his interest in retail dealerships in 2015, keeping only his name on the stores, and retaining a high end Ferrari and Maserati store. In fact, Boch earned his billionaire status with the distributorship Subaru of New England. In other words, for every Subaru, and every Subaru part sold in a network of 64 dealers in all six New England states, Ernie Boch, Jr., CEO of Subaru of New England, gets a check.

Of course, this is America, and Americans have the constitutional right to their opinion. But once you hear that opinion, you might not want to spend money at that person's establishment.

And that's exactly where Ernie Boch, Jr. has got you over a differential. Live in Calais, Maine, and need a heat shield? Ernie Boch, Jr. wets his beak. Shopping for an Outback in Providence? Ernie's pockets fill up again. You get the picture.

Why that is requires a little history about Subaru, and their distribution in New England.

The first Subaru in the U.S. was the 360. (CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikipedia, Mytho88)

Malcolm Bricklin was the first person to introduce Subaru products to America, importing the tiny Subaru 360. Bricklin founded Subaru of America with 20 dealerships on the east coast, and another 60 in California. His initial purchase was for 332 Subaru 360s. Like most other Japanese brands in their nascent period, Subaru needed dealer groups here that would shoulder some of the burden of building a legitimate business. Subaru of America sold cars to distributorships, which then would sell cars and parts to individual dealers in their region, rather than requiring Subaru of America to have regional offices the way Ford Motor Company or General Motors does.

America's reaction to the initial Subaru product was bleak, at best. Consumer Reports lambasted it as "Not Acceptable," concluding in the April 1969 issue, "It was a pleasure to squirm out of the Subaru, slam the door and walk away."

Consumer Reports panned the Subaru in 1969.

That's where Ernie Boch, Sr. stepped in. Subaru of New England -- one of the 15 regional dealer groups around the country -- was founded by a Connecticut dealer, but the business foundered. Ernie Boch, Sr. wisely acquired the entire distributorship in January of 1971, when Subaru's reputation was questionable at best.That empire grew significantly in New England throughout the 1980s and 1990s, especially as Subaru capitalized on its strategy of selling all of its products with all-wheel drive, long before other car companies jumped on the bandwagon.

It made Ernie Boch, Sr. a rich man. In a story in Ward's Auto in 2000, the magazine noted that Subaru of New England "sells cars and parts to 60 dealers in New England, and holds 16% of national sales in about 6% of the market, based on competitive registration data."

"What's unusual about that is the 60 dealers are all exclusive dealers, selling nothing but Subaru," said Boch in that interview. "Nowhere else in the world does that exist."

If you purchase a Subaru at any one of the now 64 dealers in any of the six New England States, Ernie Boch, Jr.'s Subaru of New England is the middleman, taking its profit as the gatekeeper for product in this vitally important region for all-wheel drive sales.

Goodbye Saabs and Volvos, Hello Subaru!

 

It's ironic that the groovy hippies in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, who replaced their Saabs and Volvos with Subarus en masse in the 2000s, spend money with a guy who staged a million dollar fundraiser for Donald Trump in his $30 million dollar mansion in Norwood, Massachusetts, and donated so much money to Trump's campaign that it needed to issue Boch, Jr. a refund of $84,236.80 to steer clear of election finance sanctions.

Subarus are great for New England weather. There's no doubt about that. But for many Subaru owners, the link to a guy with such distasteful views on how to pick a presidential candidate may be hard to stomach. Is it worth reconsidering the purchase? That's a decision each shopper needs to make. But, for those whose politics for those whose politics are more progressive, it's Caveat Emptor when it comes to the beauty of All Wheel Drive.


Get the Car Talk Newsletter



Got a question about your car?

Ask Someone Who Owns One