Robert “Bob” Soell, long-time fleet manager at Suntrup Ford in St. Louis, retired on Dec. 4, 2012, after 64 years in fleet.
Soell’s introduction to the fleet industry was by fortuitous accident. In 1948, when he brought in his 1947 Ford “Woody” station wagon to Fred Evens Ford in St. Louis for service, “They asked me if I wanted to sell cars,” he recalled in an interview in the September 2012 issue of Automotive Fleet. “I said, ‘I don’t know how to sell cars,’ and they replied, ‘Can you read and write? You start tomorrow.’”
In fact, Soell’s first love was basketball. After successful high school and naval basketball careers, he was part of a group who attempted to bring professional basketball to St. Louis. Soell continued promoting basketball events in and around St. Louis during the early days of his fleet career. This was possible because, in those days, dealers closed at 5 p.m. during the week and at noon on Saturday.
Soell spent his entire automotive career with Ford, selling cars and trucks to national companies full-time for 35 years until the business changed and many companies opted for leasing instead of outright ownership. By the late 1980s, Soell was working for Kribs Ford City in St. Louis where he delivered 11,815 new cars and trucks between 1985 and 2000. Kribs was sold to Suntrup in 2000 and Soell stayed on until his retirement in December.
Soell (rhymes with “sell”), a founding member of the Automotive Fleet Hall of Fame and one of AF’s “50 Most Important People in Fleet History," marked another milestone last summer, celebrating his 95th birthday.
As his place in the Automotive Fleet Hall of Fame attests, Soell did more than sell and manage fleet vehicles during his long career. He helped lead and evolve the industry as a charter member of the Automotive Fleet and Leasing Association (AFLA) and as a member of the NAFA Fleet Management Association.
By Chris Wolski