Max Hoffman brought European cars to U.S.
Hoffman came to America from Austria soon before the United States entered World War II. He formed Hoffman Motor Car Co. in 1946 and introduced a single marque in 1947: Delahaye. He added Jaguar, his first major make, in 1948.
It was a ripple that became a tidal wave. It certainly wasn't big news in 1948 that Hoffman had brought a few expensive French and British cars to this country. It wasn't even news the following year when he reached into Germany and pulled out a couple of Volkswagens. But Hoffman planted the seeds of a boom.
VW was his greatest claim to fame - and also his greatest embarrassment. He dropped the franchise in 1953. Of course, he would have lost VW anyway; the European makers took over the importing of their cars into the United States after Hoffman gave them a foothold. He then was a dealer and, sometimes, a distributor.
Mercedes-Benz provides an example of how things worked. Hoffman began importing the brand in 1952. Five years later the German company bought him out for $2 million and switched distribution rights to Studebaker-Packard.
His longest relationship was with BMW; he was the exclusive importer until 1975. Then the parties differed. The dispute went to court, and BMW bought out Hoffman for a reported $16 million.
The father of the European car in the United States? No question; it was Maximilian Hoffman.