Our company was founded in the late summer of 1947 by Charles Betts, Sr. Prior to this, he had been employed by Cadillac Motor Car Division of General Motors as an Advertising and Merchandising Manager starting in the early 1930s in Chicago, Illinois. In 1947, the company was known as Betts Cadillac-Oldsmobile, Inc. because we were the Oldsmobile franchised dealer and distributor for 44 counties for the sale of Cadillac automobiles and parts.
In 1951 the Oldsmobile franchise was dropped and we concentrated on building the Cadillac Distributorship. We expanded to a high of 26 dealers throughout the 44 county area. The area was bounded on the north by the Minnesota state line, the south by the Missouri state line, east as far as Ottumwa, and west as far as Spencer, Iowa. Betts Cadillac had been responsible for the retail sales in Polk, Warren, and Marion counties. There had been a dealer for Cadillac in Des Moines, since back in the 1920s. Some of the names connected with the Cadillac dealership in Des Moines are Kruidiener, Longwell, and Hardy. Having succeeded his father as the Dealer Principal in 1965, the growth continued with Charles H. Betts, Jr.
In 1990, Lexus was added to the family with the founding of Betts Lexus. A building located across the street from our Cadillac store, the former Valley Bank Regency Building, was remodeled into a Lexus dealership.
In 1996, both downtown facilities were sold to the City of Des Moines for expansion by our neighbors – Meredith Publishing. Our new facilities at 2121 NW 100th Street opened in the spring of 1996. Rich Willis started with the dealership in 1972 while attending Simpson College in Indianola. Doing various jobs throughout his career, he became a partner with Mr. Betts in 1988 and the Dealer Principal in 1997.
Rich Willis had controlling interest in the business from 1997 to 2000 when he became the owner of Betts Cadillac and Betts Lexus. In June of 2002, we were awarded the HUMMER franchise. Later that year, we were awarded Jaguar in November and Volvo in December, and began construction of our 9800 Hickman Road facility. We changed our name to Betts Auto Campus, and acquired Land Rover in August of 2007.
To reflect the new ownership, we updated our name from Betts Auto Campus to Willis Auto Campus on April 1,2008. We added INFINITI in July of 2008. GM made the decision to terminate the HUMMER line in 2010; and we continue to service HUMMER vehicles today.
In December of 2010, we officially added MINI of Des Moines with the addition of the former Saturn dealership at the corner of 100th Street and Hickman Road.
In 2013, Jason and Matt Willis were added as members of the Executive Leadership Team after several years of service in other positions at the dealership.
In 2018, Willis Auto Campus purchased three Big O Tires locations around the Des Moines Metro Area. Later that fall, Willis Auto Campus updated the company name to Willis Automotive to better reflect the growth of the company outside of the “campus”.
In 2019, Willis Automotive’s pre-owned operation expanded to a new location in Waukee, Iowa. This location helped to provide a more approachable atmosphere for our guests to enjoy their experience with Willis Automotive. Also, in the fall of 2019, Rich Willis assumed the position of Chairman of the Board, Jason Willis was promoted to Dealer Principal, and Matt Willis was promoted to Chief Visionary Officer.
In 2020, Willis Automotive purchased Beneventi Chevrolet in Granger, Iowa, from Don Beneventi, and renamed it Willis Chevrolet of Granger.
In 2021, Willis Automotive looked to continue the success of the Waukee Pre-Owned location with the addition of Willis Pre-Owned Ankeny – just blocks from our Ankeny Big O Tires location on Oralabor Road.
In 2022, Willis Automotive purchased Hummel’s Nissan, Iowa’s number one Nissan Dealership. The Hummel family and Willis family both pride themselves on exhibiting a culture of treating their employees like family. Willis welcomed 104 Nissan employees into the Willis Automotive family.
in 2023, Matt Willis transitioned to a board member as he pursues other passions outside of day-to-day management.
The future continues to look bright as the traditions established by the Betts and Willis families evolve and expand.
You don't have any saved vehicles!
Look for this link on your favorites:
Once you've saved some vehicles, you can view them here at any time.