Albert Lea’s Honda dealership changes owners

Published 4:50 pm Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Albert Lea’s Honda dealership is under new ownership with the transition of Wuerflein Honda into what is now Marthaler Honda.

Marthaler Honda General Manager Chris Knutson said ownership officially changed March 8. The previous owners, Ryan Wuerflein and the Markquart Group, will continue to operate Wuerflein Chevrolet Buick GMC off of Bridge Avenue in northern Albert Lea.

Knutson, who moved to the area with his wife and two children to run the dealership, said the company was interested in Albert Lea because of the size of the community, the traffic and the location of the dealership near the interstate. Owner Aaron Marthaler also liked that there had been a Honda dealership in the community for many years and was excited about getting into a store that sold only the Honda brand.

Email newsletter signup

“It just seemed like our kind of store — a community this size, a little smaller store that we can grow and expand into the community here,” Knutson said.

Marthaler started as a lube technician in Glenwood changing oil in cars, at one point became a car salesman and then a few years later was given the opportunity to buy into the store.

He now owns eight other locations in communities similar to Albert Lea’s size, taking stores that sell 30 or 40 cars a month and doubling that, Knutson said. The stores are in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Knutson said all of the employees remained on staff through the ownership change, and there have also been a few new workers hired. Between the body shop employees, quick lube techs, advisers, parts employees, sales staff and others, he estimated there were 20 to 25 employees.

“The employees are fantastic here,” he said. “They’re just really really great people.”

Since taking over the dealership, they have worked on a few upgrades, including repainting the service department so there is a fresh look, moving the customer lounge off of the show floor and painting the show floor wall blue.

“Trying to just build a culture here,” Knutson said. “Our motto here is if we create happy employees, we create happy customers. That’s our main goal here to treat the employees right, make sure they have a good work-life balance.”

Brian Riley, new car sales manager at the dealership, said they have plans for increased inventory to give customers more selection and hope that by doing so they can better serve the community.

Knutson said the dealership will continue to have appointments for service, but they also want people to know that if they have an emergency with their vehicle, they will find a way to work it into their schedules.

“When people’s cars break down it’s life-altering,” he said. “That’s how people get paid and how they pick their kids up. I always tell them back there this is a triage unit of a hospital. If someone comes in with a broken ankle or their car’s broken, we’re going to help them. This is an emergency for those people.”

The men said they are excited about the changes at the dealership and look forward to serving the community.

Marthaler Honda is at 2114 E. Main St. and can be reached at 373-2341.