MILFORD — The story of how i.g. Burton expanded its car business to include Mercedes-Benz is one of perseverance.
Fourth-generation i.g. Burton owner David G. Burton was introduced to the German luxury automotive brand when he was stationed in Europe while in the U.S. armed forces.
“My dad spent time in Germany while in the Army. And got to know Mercedes-Benz while over there,” said fifth-generation and current owner and president of i.g. Burton Charlie Burton.
When he returned to the U.S., and the car business, David Burton wanted to work with the luxury carmaker.
Every year, at Christmas time, he would sit down and pen a letter to Mercedes-Benz leaders suggesting they come to southern Delaware and partner with i.g. Burton.
“He wrote a letter and said, ‘Hey, we’d really like to be a Mercedes-Benz dealer.’ He did it for years,” Charlie Burton said.
The letter-writing campaign began in the early 1960s and to David Burton’s disappointment, each request was left unanswered.
“I think it was 10 or 12 years, just a long time with no response. Nothing. And then one day, they just showed up. No appointment or anything. The representative said we’d like to talk to David Burton,” Charlie Burton said.
After that unexpected meeting in 1971, the Burtons began their relationship with Mercedes-Benz.
Later the Milford-based car dealer learned the reason Mercedes-Benz finally agreed to talk business was the growing popularity of Delaware’s beaches.
“People were coming here from D.C., Philadelphia, New York, northern Virginia, with their Mercedes to their beach house or a place at the beach and they’d break down and the only service center was two hours away. They’d have to get a tow back and it was kind of a hassle. So, we really got in as a service point,” Charlie Burton said.
“It’s a great story of never giving up.”
The company later expanded their franchise by adding Sprinter vans.
“We did that because it’s an incredibly great vehicle. Mercedes-Benz raised the standard of what a van is with Sprinter. Whether you are hauling cargo, passengers, or want to have a really nice camper, Sprinter vans are amazing. You can do a lot with a Sprinter. And when it comes to quality, you can’t beat it. After all, it’s a Mercedes-Benz,” Charlie Burton said.
While celebrating its 50 years of working with Mercedes-Benz, i.g. Burton is also recognizing its longtime service workers. The company recently presented some of its service technicians with awards marking their years of service.
“All of the techs in our shop have over 125 years of combined experience. They are factory trained following the training path of Mercedes-Benz,” said Stephen Hunter, i.g. Burton spokesman.
The company recently acknowledged Gifford King and Scott Simonsen for 30 years of service, and Mike Millman for 15 years and Cleon Robinson for 10 years as Mercedes-Benz technicians.
“I’m very proud of our Mercedes-Benz team because they do such a great job with our customers. It all boils down to people taking care of people. That’s how we’ve earned the business of so many customers over last 50 years. Taking great care of our customers is the biggest focus of our entire organization,” Charlie Burton said.
The Burton company is one of the oldest automobile dealers in the United States. For that, it has been recognized as a Century Dealer, one of only 40 in the country out of 17,000 new car dealers.
It was founded in 1908.
In addition to Mercedes-Benz, i.g. Burton offers Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram, Fiat, and BMW.
They are also the oldest Blue Bird bus dealer in the country.
When asked about where the car business is going, Charlie Burton said his company will continue to focus on service for those customers who want to maintain their gas-powered vehicles, but electric and alternative-fueled vehicles will be the future.
“I just returned from a Bluebird Bus meeting and that’s the next big thing. They will no longer sell diesel buses in 2025. Diesel buses consist of 70% of the market. They consider alternative fuels to be gas, electric and propane,” he said.
The Mercedes-Benz dealer is due to receive its first all-electric German luxury car any day now.
He said the move to all-electric vehicles is inevitable because of what it takes to make them.
“Electric is coming and the reason it’s coming is that you can’t dabble in electric. It’s such an expensive undertaking that car makers have to go all in,” Charlie Burton said.
For more information visit the company’s website at www.igburton.coin Milford, Seaford, Lewes, and Smyrna, and Berlin, Maryland.