Proud to be the oldest family-owned new car dealership in the Metro-East area, Wagner Motor Car Company opened its doors in Belleville on August 1, 1912. This is the same year as the Titanic disaster and the introduction of the Oreo Cookie. Gustav (Gus) P. Wagner, our founder, was in the wholesale grocery business when he made the transition to what was back then, an industry still in its infancy. Gus did not realize at the time, that the Wagner family name would become synonymous with the word Buick (and eventually GMC and Pontiac too) in the greater Belleville region.
We are extremely proud of our heritage. Wagner Motor Car Company has been passed from father to son three different times: Gustav to his oldest son Kenneth Wagner in 1935, Kenneth to his son Wayne Wagner in 1956, and from Wayne to his oldest son Rusty Wagner (Wayne Jr.) in 1985. Four generations of continuous family leadership is quite rare in the automobile industry.
During the early years, Wagner Motor Car Company represented multiple franchise nameplates such as Hudson (our first recorded new vehicle sale was a Hudson), Reo, Buick, Oldsmobile, GMC, and several others. In the 1920s, Wagner Motor Car Company became Buick Motor Division's exclusive Buick Distributor for the southern Illinois region. (Castles-Wilson Buick just north of the Chase Hotel across from Forest Park in St. Louis became the eastern Missouri distributor.) Any new Buick sold in the metro southern Illinois area originated and passed through our store. These Buicks were delivered by our network of satellite stores that were set up in other nearby communities. Wagner Motor Car Company remained in that distributorship capacity for Buick until just prior to WW II, when General Motors discontinued the practice. It was because of this distributorship association with Buick, that most of the other franchises were methodically sold or dropped over the years.
When Gus Wagner started his business in 1912, it was in an old carriage works building on the north side of the street in the one hundred block of East 'A' Street. Shortly before WWI, this building, with its weak wooden floors and limited space, proved to be inadequate and Gus decided that it was time to expand to a new location. When Gus tried to borrow some money for a new building, one lender politely told him anyone in Belleville 'who could afford a new car already had one'. Fortunately another lender was more positive about the future of the automotive industry and the new building was built on the southwest corner of 'A' and Jackson Streets. Wagner Motor Car Company continued operations at this location for over 64 years, until Wayne Wagner built a new building at 4400 North Belt West. Wayne moved the Buick franchise to this new location in September 1969 and 4400 North Belt West would be our home for the next 37 years.
In May of 1992, Rusty Wagner was able to purchase a second franchise, GMC Truck, which gave us trucks, vans and sport utility vehicles to go along with the Buick lineup. To accommodate GMC he expanded the site and remodeled the North Belt West facility. Wagner Motor Car Company continued with the two GM franchises for the next eleven years. Then on December 16, 2003, Rusty completed the purchased of the Pontiac franchise. This move satisfied the General Motor's channel strategy of putting three high-quality GM franchises- Buick, Pontiac and GMC - together under one roof. It became evident that this final acquisition made the 4400 North Belt West site obsolete. It was just too small to accommodate all three franchises' sales and service efforts properly. Rusty Wagner immediately started looking for a new building site for Wagner Motor Car Company (which by now was doing business as Wagner Buick Pontiac GMC). After a long search and build process, Wagner Buick Pontiac GMC opened our beautiful new facility located at 3800 West State Route 15 in Belleville on April 16, 2007. Customers find this new location easy to get to, very customer friendly and a wonderful place to do business.
After 101 years, 4 locations, 4 generations of Wagner family dealers, and many thousands of satisfied customers (some of our current customers represent fifth and even sixth generations of their family to do business with us), we have come together with the other legacy family dealer in Belleville, the Joseph Family, to offer you the best selection of vehicles while continuing to provide you the service you've come to expect. We pledge to provide you with an outstanding automotive ownership experience than can only come from a reputation of earned integrity. The next time you are in the market for a new or used car, truck, van, or sport utility vehicle, or your present vehicle just needs some maintenance, come experience the OCJ differance. It may not be called the 'Wagner Way', but we're sure you'll enjoy joining the Oliver C. Joseph family. Because we have been completely satisfying our customers since 1912, we know that you'll be pleased with your decision.