One of the nice things about National Automobile Dealers Association conventions is that they give you a chance to see old friends and meet new ones.
Last week in San Francisco, I had the chance to spend some time with Kjell Qvale, whose success story goes back more than half a century.
Kjell is a youthful 83 and acts and thinks like a fellow half his age. I imagine that most of his employees have a difficult time keeping up with him. He's one of the heroes of our industry, a guy who has done it all.
Kjell started out selling Jeeps after World War II. But after he saw his first MG, the poor Jeep didn't have a chance. He started selling MGs in 1947, and he has had just about every European import since then. The history of the American import auto industry probably will say he was most successful as a Volkswagen importer. He eventually sold the distributorship back to the factory for what I imagine was a pretty penny.
Never content just to sell cars, Kjell is one of the few guys I know who suc-cessfully manufactured cars as well. The Jensen Healey is his best-known car.
But what I like most about Kjell are his infectious love and enthusiasm for cars and the business of cars. His dealership is on San Francisco's old auto row - Van Ness Avenue - in a magnificent building built in 1925 for a Packard dealership. Kjell still comes in every day and watches his Jaguars, Land Rovers, Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, Lamborghinis and Aston Martins.
And in addition to his love of selling, building and even racing cars at Indianapolis and other places, he still finds time for his other great passion, racehorses.
It's fun to be with Kjell Qvale. He has a million fascinating stories. I had a chance to introduce him to some of today's automotive executives and, like me, they were all charmed.
I expect that he'll be selling cars on Van Ness for quite a while. And don't be surprised if you read about still another project.
And if you are around Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco, stop in, if for no other reason than to imagine a showroom full of 16-cylinder Packards. If you're lucky, you might be able to say hello to Kjell. It will be worth the trip.