Tex Earnhardt, founder and CEO of Earnhardt Auto Centers, was raised on a ranch in the Rio Grande Valley of Southern Texas. In 1951 when he was twenty years old, he and his family moved to Chandler where his father, Hal Earnhardt, Senior, started a small gas station downtown.
The service station provided a small income for his family by selling gas and auto parts. Tex wanted to expand his business to sell automobiles, but the factories in Detroit refused to ship the vehicles to him without expensive transportation costs. Tex went to work and immediately found a solution. He and a friend decided to drive to Detroit, buy a car from the Ford factory, drive both vehicles back to Chandler, and sell the new car. As soon as he sold his first car, he drove right back to Detroit and purchased the second. He repeated the whole process for months.
Eventually his hard work translated into success when Ford factory officials saw how dedicated and strong his work ethic was. They awarded him his own franchise at the age of 21. To this date, Tex holds the record for the youngest franchise owner in the entire nation.
As the dealership grew, Tex became Ford’s most respected owner. Lee Iacocca, then a corporate manager for Ford, developed a strong relationship with Tex. When Lee accepted the position of CEO for the ailing Chrysler Corporation in the early 1980s, he personally flew to Phoenix and asked Tex to become a franchise owner for Chrysler. Tex risked ruining his reputation as a quality dealer by accepting a Chrysler franchise since Chrysler had recently produced some poor quality models and was under constant threat of bankruptcy. Tex—with his keen intuition and judgment of Iacocca’s character—took the risk, accepted the Chrysler franchise, and put his faith in Iacocca to turn Chrysler Corporation around.
Tex soon became one of the most powerful dealers in the country. As of today he resides as Chairman of the Board of Earnhardt’s, with his sons Hal as President and Jim as Treasurer. His oldest grandson Dodge, a graduate of ASU, is also heavily involved in all aspects of the family business. Tex and his family members have created a corporation that employs over 1500 people, and produces nearly one billion dollars in retail sales each year. In 2006, Earnhardt’s sold 27,055 vehicles to people across the Southwestern United States. With the addition of BMW and Mazda of El Paso, Texas, Earnhardt Auto Centers now carry the world’s most wanted cars and trucks.
A strong work ethic isn’t the only reason for his success; he’s also been on the cutting edge of innovation. He started the Mr. Ed Department to reach people with credit problems who were being ignored by the industry. Since it’s inception, the Mr. Ed Department has become the world’s largest special finance department and generates a large percentage of the corporation’s sales. He also expanded his market reach by opening Earnhardt’s RV, which is now the largest Fleetwood RV dealership in the world.
In addition, Tex owns huge cattle ranches in Wilcox and Payson, and even has cattle at his ranch in Chandler. His famous Brahman steer (pictured above), which led to his trademark slogan “that ain’t no bull,” lives on his Chandler ranch.
Tex, at 70+ years of age, is an avid pilot flying all over Arizona; he performs in rodeos, rides Harley’s, and exercises daily. In addition, Tex has a strong commitment to his relatives and stays close with his large and growing family.
"The most important things in life: Family, Love, Respect."
- Tex Earnhardt