Bob McDorman has sold cars since 1965. He plans to retire when he hits the 50-year mark. He discusses his days as head of Bob McDorman Chevrolet, near Columbus, OH.

WardsAuto: Why did you become a dealer?

Bob McDorman: I love cars.

WardsAuto: What is your business philosophy? What made you successful?

McDorman: A couple of things. No.1, you can fake enthusiasm, but you can’t fake passion, and I’ve got the passion. And honesty. That’s the word I live by, and it’s paid off. I started with eight employees; I have around 70 now.

WardsAuto: How did you stay afloat during the down times?

McDorman: It was tough. We ran short of cash all the time. I started out with Motors Holding Div. of General Motors, and when you’re a Motors Holding dealer, they never let you keep any cash in the deal, because if you got a little cash in there they made you pay off stock.

I operated the entire time without cash. I borrowed a bunch (from) GM, but then I’d get bank loans for the real estate.

WardsAuto: How has the car business changed since you began?

McDorman: It was tough when I started out because I didn’t have much money. Before I could build the new building I had to have the option on the land before they would grant the franchise. Once a month, I had to send the zone manager a letter telling him where I was at on the building.

WardsAuto: How did the GM bankruptcy affect you?

McDorman: That slowed us down a little bit. We weren’t making much money. Cash for Clunkers didn’t help us that much because we were short on inventory and the banks were holding us down on floorplan. We got through it and we’re all right now.

WardsAuto: What makes a good car salesman?

McDorman: He has to work hard, be devoted and really treat the customer right. When a customer comes in today, he knows more about the car because he’s looked it up on the Internet. He knows what he’s doing, so you better not kid him.

WardsAuto: Would you open a dealership today if you were just starting out?

McDorman: In a New York second. I still have a passion for it.

WardsAuto: What other franchises do you admire?

McDorman: All GM, nothing else. I’m just a loyal man to General Motors and Chevrolet. I will be when I get out of here, because Chevrolet’s the one I made the money with.

WardsAuto: What’s so special about Chevrolet?

McDorman: It’s everybody's car. They have nice designs and good mileage. Once the economy gets rolling again, people will be back buying more Chevrolets than ever.

WardsAuto: Who was the greatest Chevrolet Div. general manager you ever worked with?

McDorman: Bob Lund was probably as good as there ever was. I got along with Bob Stempel really well. Ed Cole was great man. They were a dealer’s friend. Bob Lund understood the car business. He became a very successful Cadillac dealer when he retired from GM. He was an all-American automobile man.

WardsAuto: Tell us about the deal you just closed.

McDorman: I sold my dealership to a good friend of mine, Jeff Wyler (who heads a multi-brand dealership group based in Cincinnati; McDorman retains a 15% interest in the store).

When I first bought the dealership, Motors Holding capitalized it at $100,000 and I put $25,000 down. Counting the real estate now, it’s up around $7 million to $10 million.

I’ve been a dealer for 46 years, and I’m going to keep it for four years. That’ll give me 50 years as a Chevy dealer and that's a good enough story for me to tell.

Jeff was a district manager in the early 1970s. When he got ready to buy his first dealership, I helped him. He told me he owed me so much for all the favors I’d done for him, but I don’t even remember doing anything for him. I just enjoy helping people. I’m going to spend the rest of my life trying to help people.

WardsAuto: What would you tell a young person starting out in the business?

McDorman: It’s an everyday job and there are a lot of people you have to retrain every day. It’s hard work, but there’s nothing in the world that’ll give you more self-satisfaction, more prestige and more enjoyment than the automobile business.