In 1956, Jack Pohanka added a Fiat franchise to his Oldsmobile dealership in Washington, selling both brands on the same showroom floor.
It was a bold stroke because in those days, Pohanka, now 81, recalls, "Foreign-car dealers sold foreign cars, and domestic dealers sold domestic cars." General Motors was perplexed by the move but didn't interfere. The practice of "dualing" domestic and import franchises, now common, was born.
Today, Pohanka Automotive Group consists of 15 dealerships in the Washington market. The family business, founded in 1919, is one of the nation's oldest dealership groups.
Even as he built his company, Pohanka stayed active in the National Automobile Dealers Association, serving as NADA president in 1976. Within and outside NADA, Pohanka developed a reputation for effective advocacy on dealers' behalf.
It wasn't always easy. In the mid-1960s, Pohanka's store sold a new Oldsmobile to a powerful lawmaker, Sen. Philip Hart, a Michigan Democrat. But the car broke down as Hart was driving it home. Pohanka picked up the car and fixed it, and the two men became friends.