The Company's Final Years

In 1970 Leonard and CFP’s other North American assets merged, under the new name of Total. Although it was not completely clear at the time, since Total originally located its senior management in Alma, the sale marked the end of a distinctive Michigan firm.

In 1971 Total rebranded it retail outlets; the name “Total” replaced “Leonard” on the company’s service stations. Symbolic of the change was a change in leadership. In 1971 Reid Brazell retired as chairman of the Total Board of Directors.  Brazell had become president of Leonard in 1942. He held that post until 1969, when he succeeded J. Walter Leonard, the firm’s founder, as chairman of the Leonard Board of Directors. In 1970 Brazell was asked to stay on as the first chairman of the Total Board, which some hopefully took to indicate much about the new company’s continuing interest in Michigan.  However, when he retired in 1971, Brazell was replaced as chairman not by a Michigan resident but rather by Etienne L. Dalemont, of Paris.  In 1972 Total’s headquarters were transferred from Alma to Denver, Colorado.

Total was soon advertised as “the international gasoline” and promotions featured world maps and a series of miniature flags from foreign nations. It dropped sponsorship of Michigan Outdoors. Particularly in the Detroit area, Total also began to recast its image from a ‘full-service” station at which attendants would pump the gas and perform other services on the car to a low-cost, “self-serve,” gas station, at which the consumer would personally fuel the car. “Self-service” was hardly a new idea – the first such stations had appeared in California in 1947 under the name “Gas-A-Terias” -- but they were still unusual in Michigan. The company also quickly realized that what had once been repair bays for oil changes and auto repairs could be converted into small but profitable convenience stores.

 

For all of its efforts, however, Total’s share of the Michigan market never substantially increased over that which Leonard had enjoyed in the late 1960s.  In 1997 San Antonio-based Ultramar Diamond Shamrock (UDS) purchased Total from its French parent company. UDS was an independent oil refinery company which was rapidly expanding in an attempt to create a new, national firm. Perhaps because its expansion was so rapid, many of its purchases did not prove well advised. The Total purchase quickly became one of those troubled acquisitions.  

In 1999 UDS sold the 179 company-owned Total gas stations to Marathon Ashland Petroleum (MAP), which marketed its gas under the name “Speedway.” Contracts to supply fuel to an additional 214 independently owned gasoline stations which sold Total gas were also transferred to MAP. UDS also hoped to find a buyer for the Alma Refinery but it was unable to find a purchaser for what the industry considered to be a small and relatively inefficient refinery. Unable to sell the facility, in 1999 UDS stopped production in Alma. In 2003 UDS demolished the refinery.