Lindsay sells one in eight of all new cars in Ulster.
The manufacturer’s own retail division, which held a 49% stake in the business, has bought the 51% shareholding of brothers David and Nick Lindsay, who have retired.
The price paid has not been revealed but industry sources estimate it at more than £5 million.
A motor industry consultant said: “I am surprised this has taken Ford Retail so long.
Lindsay Cars is a local hero that has long needed a push to exploit its full potential.”
Lindsay Cars has eight Ford dealerships and two Mazda.
The group made a profit of £900,000 on a turnover of £116 million in calendar year 2006, a return on sales of 0.77%, and Ford Retail will expect to improve on that return.
Its own target is 1.2%. Lindsay’s turnover last year was around £120 million.
Lindsay directors David Sandford and Keith Scott stay with the business and Ford Retail is installing a new IT system.
Ford Retail was eighth in November’s updated AM100 with a turnover of £925 million and the acquisition takes its annual sales over £1 billion. It does not have a stake in any other UK franchised groups.
Chris Hayden, chairman and chief executive of Ford Retail, has been a non-executive director of Lindsay Cars since 2001.
He said: “Lindsay Cars has an excellent reputation for customer service and community involvement.
“I feel sure it will benefit from the support Ford Retail can provide.”
#AM_ART_SPLIT#Ford Retail is rebuilding the Lindsay Ford site at Lisburn but will not reveal the size of the investment.
The site holds the Ford car and LCV franchises and also includes Mazda.
The redevelopment is due to be completed by early next year and will include a showroom with 10 new cars.
Lindsay Cars also has retail sites in Ballymena, Bangor, Belfast, Coleraine, Craigavon and Mallusk.
Ford Retail will retain the family name.
Lindsay Cars, which employs 550 people, was founded at Lisburn in 1966 and has since sold more than 75,000 new Fords.
The business has won the Ford Chairman Award for customer satisfaction five times.
David Lindsay said: “Nick and I are sad to leave and want to thank the many employees who helped build the business to what it is today.”