CommentaryHe may look like a well-heeled Boston Brahman of old-family wealth, but Albrecht is very much a self-made man from modest roots, one of a bus driver’s eight kids.Â

“We didn’t have a car when I was growing up,†he says.Â

He had one suit and one pair of shoes when he started selling Toyotas in 1968, a year when 70,000 Toyotas were sold in the U.S. compared with 1.9 million last year. The Japanese auto maker “is on fire in so many ways,†says Albrecht.Â

He had earned enough money as a car salesman to bankroll a gift shop that his wife opened. They then used the profits from that venture to buy a Toyota dealership in 1977.Â

He now owns Woburn Foreign Motors, a Toyota and Jaguar store in Woburn, MA, 11 miles (17.7 km) north of Boston, as well as two nearby Nissan stores, an Infiniti dealership and a body shop for foreign vehicles. He is on the local Junior Achievement board in an effort to help young people with the same spirit that got him where he is today.Â

In Orlando, FL, for the National Automobile Dealers Assn. annual convention, Albrecht and son George Jr., who is part of the family dealership business, attend the American International Auto Dealers Assn.’s annual luncheon.Â

On that occasion, the AIADA awards its highest honor – a lifetime achievement award – to David Fry, president and CEO of Northwood University, a Midland, MI, school that offers unique degree programs in automotive retailing and marketing.Â

Northwood has turned out thousands of graduates who entered the dealership world, including AIADA’s immediate past chairman, Buzz Rodland, owner of Rodland Toyota in Everett, WA.Â

“Attending Northwood was an amazing experience,†says Rodland. “It is why I am here today.â€Â

Hitting home for Albrecht is what Fry says during his award-acceptance speech. The university president talks about vehicle ownership representing freedom of a high order.Â

Fry says vehicles not only give people a sense of freedom, they give them an essential element of it – the freedom of mobility and all that comes with it.Â

That includes the choice to travel when and where you want, the means to seek employment in a wider geographical range than would be otherwise possible and the ability to bring goods to marketplaces.Â

“Private vehicles provide mobility, and mobility is freedom,†says Fry. “It is absolutely necessary for the enhancement of human beings.â€Â

After the speech, Albrecht, recalling his boyhood in a car-less family, says, “That’s exactly how I feel!â€Â

Other freedoms also are raised as issues at the AIADA event, such as freedom of trade – always a hot topic for dealers who sell international nameplate vehicles.Â

Fry says, “Free trade is important to the economy…It works when it does not stop at borders.â€Â

AIADA Chairman Don Hicks, edgy about tariff talk in the face of domestic auto makers’ woes of late, proclaims: “We can’t let anyone convince the public that protectionism helps anybody.â€Â

AIADA membership consists of 11,000 dealers selling foreign-nameplate cars. It would be hard to find any of those dealers who want to see domestic auto makers roll over and stick all four paws in the air.Â

“As an American I’m concerned about the domestics,†says Albrecht. “But theirs seems to be an intrinsic problem of chasing stock prices rather than pursuing long-term strategy.â€Â

A free society and its vehicles may ensure freedom of movement, but it doesn’t guarantee that everyone, every time will move in the right direction.Â

sfinlay@wardsauto.com