The Ferman name is synonymous with Tampa. Serving amongst those who founded the Tampa Board of Trade in 1885, Ferman has been at the forefront of the Tampa Bay Area’s innovation and growth. Long before there were gas-powered automobiles on Tampa’s dusty streets, there were horse-drawn carriages and wagons, and before the end of the 19th century something new and exciting appeared.
The craze swept the manufacturing and retail industry. W. Frederick Ferman, grandfather of current Ferman CEO James L. Ferman, Jr., formed a partnership and started Tampa Cycle Company, building and selling bicycles in 1890. By July 1895, Fred, just 21 years old, had bought out his partner and become the sole owner of a family business that would operate and prosper for more than 120 years.
Tampa was a booming city. Its population grew and Ybor City, and the cigar factories, drove the economy. At the same time the internal combustion-engine motor vehicle was patented, a new industry was born and Fred Ferman recognized that the automobile, not the bicycle, was the transportation of the future.
In 1899, Fred Ferman and Tampa Cycle Company employee Victor James crafted two vehicles from bicycle parts, one of them powered by steam, the other by a French-made gasoline engine. The latter was the first gasoline car driven in Tampa. By then, Ferman had made a decision that would change his future forever. At the turn of the century, entrepreneurs and inventors like the Dodge Brothers, Henry Ford and Ransom Olds – founder of the City of Oldsmar – were at the forefront of transportation and Fred was poised to lead the automotive industry in the Tampa Bay Area.
By 1902, Ferman was awarded a pioneering sales agency to sell the famous Olds Motor Works’Curved Dash Oldsmobile and became Tampa’s first automotive dealer. Soon after, when the Dodge Brothers produced their first automobile, Ferman became one of their first distributors, assuming responsibility for an eight-county Florida region of dealers. These were the first of many brands that would eventually display the Ferman name.
In 1931, during the Great Depression, approximately one-third of the nation’s dealers closed their doors. During this time Fred Ferman, Jr. completed his studies and joined the family’s dealership. The same year, Ferman was awarded a Chevrolet franchise with a letter of recommendation that stated, “good name and reputation…this is the best connection we can make in Tampa”. Ferman is recognized by the National Automobile Dealers Association as an NADA Century Award dealer for America’s new car dealers that have been in the transportation business for more than 100 years, and is currently one of the largest family-owned dealer organizations in West Central Florida.
The generations that have followed Fred and Fred, Jr. have each contributed significantly to the expansion of the Ferman Motor Car Company. Returning from U.S. Navy sea duty after World War II, James L. Ferman, Sr. joined the family business and successfully led it through the second half of the twentieth century.
Today, the Ferman organization continues to grow, and prosper, through the leadership of CEO and President James L. Ferman, Jr., Chief Operating Officer Preston L. Farrior and Vice President & Corporate Counsel Stephen B. Straske, II. Today, Fred Ferman’s bicycle shop has grown into one of the nation’s largest automobile dealers with more than 1,200 employees.
Ferman dealerships serve Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pascocounties representing 14 new car brands including Acura, BMW, Buick, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, GMC, Jeep, Mazda, MINI, Nissan, Ram and Volvo. During the 1990’s Ferman added Harley-Davidson Motorcycles to its brand portfolio and now operates dealerships in Tampa, Brandon, New Port Richey, Panama City Beach and Tallahassee.
Since 1895, the Ferman organization has proudly embraced the values of good corporate citizenship and a passion for giving back to the communities they serve through the Ferman Community Partnership.
Ferman’s philanthropic efforts help serve organizations involved in education; healthcare, medical and human services; arts, cultural and history groups; civic and community events; amateur youth sports and related activities.