Still rolling: Bentley dealership finds niche in Zionsville


By Mark Ambrogi

Hermann Albers possessed a photographic memory, a demanding attention for detail and a superior knowledge of cars.

That allowed the mechanic to found Albers Rolls-Royce in 1963 as a service garage and later develop a solid luxury car business.

When Rolls-Royce decided to stop having standalone service centers, he moved the business from Indianapolis to Zionsville in 1969 to have space for a showroom and became the only Rolls-Royce and Bentley franchise dealer in Indiana.

“He thought Zionsville would be a good spot once I-465 got finished with easy access to the airport and to the city,” his son, Greg Albers, said.

When Hermann died at age 62 in October 2002, Greg, 53, and brother, Mark, 50, took over running Bentley Zionsville, 360 S. First St. The name change came when dealers had to choose between becoming either a Bentley or Rolls-Royce dealer in 2003 when the companies split. They chose Bentley because Bentley’s parent company, Volkswagen, retained access to all the parts for Bentley and older Rolls-Royce vehicles. Rolls-Royce is owned by BMW.

Bentleys also were more affordable. At the time of split in 2003, Greg said Bentleys started at $150,000 while new Rolls-Royces started at $350,000.

Mark said parts sales are probably 70 percent of the company’s business.

“That’s been our niche market, our way of keeping alive,” Greg said. “You have to have a big inventory of parts, and you have to have knowledge. That’s where we can do what other dealerships can’t.”

There are nine other full-time employees, only one in sales.

“(Sales) are a fairly small part of our business,” Greg said. “From a car sales standpoint, we’re probably one of the smallest Bentley dealers in the country. It’s a very conservative market. Some people will have a home in Florida, and they’ll drive the Bentley down there but not up here.”

Bentley Zionsville usually sells about five new cars per year.

“Our best year was 24 cars, and our worst year was one car back in the ’90s when they had the luxury tax,” Mark said.

Although Greg carries the title of parts manager and Mark service manager, they share responsibilities.

“We go back to the 1920s with some parts,” Greg said. “Our main thing is keeping the cars on the road. There is always someone wanting to rebuild them or fix them up.”

For Greg, there was never any doubt what he wanted to do.

“I was born with the car gene,” Greg said. “I knew what I wanted to do since I was 13. I wanted to be involved with cars and had a dad with a dealership. It worked out perfect.”

Mark said he couldn’t make money at other things he would want to do for a living.

“I wasn’t going to be a fighter pilot, even if I could have passed all the tests, I wouldn’t have the eyesight,” Mark said. “It was a good opportunity, and it ended up fitting perfectly. I wasn’t as mature as (Greg) was. I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do. But I was sure anything they called work I wasn’t too crazy about. But this isn’t bad work at all.”

Mark, with an adventurous nature, was a BASE (buildings, antenna, span and Earth) jumper, using parachutes. On a wall at the shop, there is a newspaper article about Mark parachuting off a bank in downtown Indianapolis.

“I got detained and almost arrested for that,” Mark said.

Perfectionist’s legacy

Greg said it wasn’t uncommon for his father to see a VIN number that he hadn’t seen in 20 years and remember details about the car.

“He’d say that car had 38,000 miles when I saw it 15 years ago, so I don’t see how it could have 24,000 miles now,” Mark said.

Greg said it was a gift. And a curse, Mark is quick to add.

“The problem is he was such an exceptional person he was kind of hard to have as father,” Mark said. “He would expect to tell you once or tell you twice, and that was it. People were frustrating for him.”

Mark said they try to uphold their father’s high standards.

“I don’t want him to come back and bother me in a dream,” Mark said. “We try to do things out of respect for the ways he did things. If he can come back and irritate me, it will be over something small.”