Bob Rosenthal isn't the only automobile magnate in the Washington area. Mandell Ourisman and John W. Koons Jr. have also shown that big can be better in riding out a recession.

Ourisman, who inherited the 61-year-old Chevrolet dealership from his father, within the last four years has decided to broaden his empire to include a Dodge dealership and a Ford showroom, which opened in February. Ourisman said he is looking for more dealerships to leave to four of his five sons, ages 26 to 30, who are interested in the car business.

"There are basically in a chain store operation two or three advantages," Ourisman said. Each store in the chain is able to benefit from advertising and the chain is able to attract "a better group of management personnel" because it's an expansion dealer rather than a mom-and-pop operation, Ourisman said.

Also, managers can be shifted from one store to another in a pinch, he added.

Ourisman decided to open a Ford dealership this past winter despite a sales slump at Ford. "We expect in a year to be the largest Ford operation in the country," Ourisman said. "I think Ford is ready for a comeback." Besides, the Ford showroom was available, in what Ourisman said was a good location in Alexandria.

His sales of Dodge products last year were $28 million, and for Chevrolet, $49 million. Ourisman delivered 7,221 Chevrolet vehicles and 4,288 Dodges.

Koons' organization oversees 11 new-car dealerships that last year sold about 3,000 vehicles a month, with sales estimated at $250 million a year. The dealerships include products made by Ford, Chevrolet, Chrysler, AMC, Toyota, Renault, Honda and Porsche and Audi. Koons also has spinoff businesses such as Koons Leasing Corp., JK Auto Parks and JK Auto Distributors.

Koons once said of the business, "You almost have to be big to survive. We are running a mom-and-pop type business, but we're big. You don't see any corner grocery stores anymore and the three-building shopping areas are on their way out. Everybody's at one huge shopping mall that the big names seem to dominate."