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Mills Auto Group purchases Swenson Motors in Willmar, Minn.

Vehicles are pictured outside the Swenson Motor Company Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep dealership on Highway 12. The dealership has been sold, the owners say. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR -- Swenson Motor Company of Willmar, which sells Chrysler, Dodge, Ram and GMC vehicles, has been sold to Mills Auto Group in a deal finalized late Monday afternoon.

Mills took possession of the remaining inventory on Tuesday and moved those vehicles to its dealership building at 4100 Highway 71 South in Willmar, which also houses its Ford, Lincoln and Jeep franchises.

Marguerite Swenson, who owns Swenson Motors with her husband Rollie, says the sale has been in the works since last fall. Originally, the couple hoped to sell the business to their son, who had worked for the dealership. However, after he took a job at Nova-Tech Engineering in Willmar, the Swensons decided to sell to Mills Auto instead.

"They're a good company," Marguerite Swenson said of Mills Auto. "They operate a little differently than we do, but they have the skills and equipment necessary to do the job well."

Both companies announced the sale Tuesday in print advertisements in the West Central Tribune.

A corporate spokesperson for Mills Auto Group could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

A fire that occurred this spring at Swenson Motors did affect the sale somewhat, Marguerite Swenson said Tuesday. Because much of the inside of the dealership building was damaged in the fire, the Swensons sold only the body shop building.

The dealership building at 1301 Highway 12 will now be demolished, unless "someone decides they want to put it back together," Marguerite Swenson said. She hopes to have the building razed before winter, she said.

Swenson Motors employed about 35 people. Many of them have already found jobs at other dealerships in the area, including Mills Auto, Marguerite Swenson said.

"We've had wonderful employees, many who have been here for 20 to 30 years," Marguerite Swenson said. "We can't say enough about our employees. We were just like a big family. That part has been difficult."

Swenson Motors will also hold an online auction in the near future to sell tools, benches, hoists and other miscellaneous items from the company.

The family-run car dealership has been in Willmar for 66 years. Rollie Swenson's father opened Swenson Motor Company in 1946. Rollie Swenson worked there in high school and took over the business in 1966 after he returned from the military, and Marguerite Swenson joined him in 1972.

The Swenson company had also previously sold Oldsmobile, Aurora and Plymouth cars until those vehicle lines were discontinued by their respective manufacturers.

Marguerite Swenson said that despite their long history in the area, selling the company was the right decision. She and her husband, both in their 70s, now plan to spend time traveling and visiting friends and family, including their grandchildren.

"This has been our life, but it was just time," she said. "There are a few more things we have to get done here, and then we're looking forward to just relaxing, especially after this year."

Marguerite Swenson said they will miss their customers the most. Even after the fire in April, their customers supported them and continued to do business there, she said.

"We've had wonderful customers who have been so loyal, and we just want to thank them for all the years and all the friendships," Marguerite Swenson said. "We'll miss all the people and wish them the best in their future years."

Ashley White

Ashley White is the community content coordinator for the West Central Tribune. Follow her on Twitter @Ashley_WCT.

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