Villa Ford

Costa Mesa resident Peggy Baldwin-Butler is a cheerful anomaly. She’s a former schoolteacher and mom who became responsible for the livelihood of over 100 local families. She’s a middle-aged woman who jumped headlong into an industry so thoroughly male that she’d have to invest years before she’d be taken seriously. Who is Peggy Baldwin-Butler? She’s Villa Ford’s Dealer-Principal and C.I.O. (Chief Inspirational Officer).

Villa Ford was established in 1970 when Herb and Wanda Baldwin relocated their car dealership from Bellflower to Orange. For young Herb, it was either the ministry or car sales — two seeming extremes of the moral pendulum, but anyone who knew Herb could tell you that he married the ideals of honesty, humanity and business with great success. Customers were loyal to Herb and Wanda, just as millions of customers who have been loyal to the Ford brand.

The Baldwins had two daughters: Peggy and Karen. When Herb and Wanda retired, Karen, Peggy and her husband Brian purchased the dealership, with Brian taking the helm. After all, he was the guy, and the car industry was a man’s industry. But as Ford went down a directionless road with its brand and products, Villa Ford also suffered its own period of bleakness.

Peggy, who had been teaching and mothering through this era, had often wished things were different at the dealership. Through the 90s, she managed human resources for her parents’ business, so she felt very connected to the Villa Ford Family.

As time went on, there were changes Peggy wanted implemented at Villa Ford, but she wasn’t the primary decision-maker so most of her ideas fell on deaf ears.

By 2009, Villa Ford and Peggy herself saw a time of crisis. The dealership was losing over $100,000 per month and was faced with the prospect of closing its doors. That meant the loss of a legacy, not to mention over 100 jobs. To make matters worse, Peggy and her husband were divorcing after nearly 30 years of marriage and he no longer wanted the leadership responsibility.

Meanwhile, Alan Mulally took the helm at Ford Motor Company as CEO. Ford and Villa Ford began a new era. Big changes were afoot. While Ford was making a huge shift from a diluted brand and gas-guzzling monster machines to a strong global brand of safe, fuel-efficient, high tech vehicles — Villa Ford needed to prepare itself for the resurgence of Ford products.

Peggy was very aware that her options were to either step up to the plate and take responsibility for the livelihoods of the Villa Ford employees — or have to live with the fact that over 100 people and their families would have to deal with unemployment. Peggy listened to her heart, and in August of 2009 she took the helm as President of her parents’ business.

That decision led Peggy to a steep mountain that had to be climbed in a very short time if Villa Ford’s bleeding was to stop and profitability to be possible again. She had been a reluctant leader for years; now she was the figurehead. One of her first decisions was to hire her longtime Visionary Success Strategist, Jeanine Just, to spearhead the reinvention of Villa Ford.

Peggy didn’t shy away from bringing her own personality and values to the new culture of the dealership. She put to work the transferable skills she gained from her roles as a teacher, mom, singer, theater maven and PTA President (roles that dare not be underestimated). She knew the power of meetings, the power of positivity and the power of women—even in the car business. Women buy 52% of all new cars sold in the U.S., influence more than 85% of all new car purchases and are the fastest growing segment of buyers for new and used cars (as reported by Forbes).

While Alan Mulally was reinventing the Ford Motor Company, Peggy got to work reinventing Villa Ford. She unabashedly focused on making it a customer-friendly place where women feel comfortable. She hired kinder, gentler men and women who understood that today’s customers are more informed than ever before and that women are hugely influential in the buying process.

Peggy also did things to make Villa Ford a good place to spend time, both for customers and co-workers. She insisted that Villa Ford be welcoming, warm and a fun experience. This includes the Villa Cafe’ and even a grand piano. She instituted Smiley U Leadership Academy so co-workers could improve personally and professionally. She developed Auto Care Clinics for customers and potential customers to make sure they protect their investment. She instituded monthly women-focused auto empowerment seminars called “WOW… Women on Wheels” to help women de-mystify the car buying and maintenance process. She even made an adjustment to her title. Yes, she’s Dealer Principal of Villa Ford, but she is also C.I.O. (Chief Inspirational Officer).

An active member of the community, Peggy sits on the board for the Santa Ana Zoo, regularly speaks at career days, Rotary meetings and women’s groups. She credits the friendships she’s formed with the kindred spirits, animal lovers and fellow Piecemakers musicians from the Costa Mesa-based Piecemakers organization (a country kitchen/ quilt shop) with helping her find the personal inspiration to achieve her professional vision.

Have her customer-friendly changes been effective? After Peggy’s first three months at the figurative wheel, Villa Ford stopped losing money, and it’s been a steady increase in revenue ever since—a feat in this economy. The future is looking bright. The “femininetouch” has big implications. Villa Ford’s WBE Certification (Women-Owned Business Enterprises) is an accreditation that has opened doors to government contract bids, and large corporate contracts. Villa Ford is also a CNG (compressed natural gas) dealership. With 95% of the country’s 20,000 auto dealers belonging to the National Automobile Dealers Association being male, Villa Ford with its lady leader is a rare breed.

Peggy Baldwin-Butler and her “cast of characters” at Villa Ford are proud to be selling the new generation of Ford vehicles, that are engineered to put quality, safety, dependability and fuel efficiency first. They invite you to take a Ford for a spin, attend one of their auto care clinics or just stop by, say hello and have a cup of coffee with them. No pressure… they’re in it for the long haul.

Connect with Peggy & Villa Ford by calling (714) 637-8222. To check inventory and online dealsgo to or stop in at 2550 N. Tustin St. in Orange.

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