In 1969, Bob Rohrman was selling used cars from a tiny building on the highway bypass outside Lafayette, Ind., when he spotted a yellow Toyota Corona in a magazine ad.
"I'd been looking for a new-car franchise and heard they were selling well in California," Rohrman, 76, recalls. "So I called the 800 number in the ad, and a month later I was selling Toyotas."
His used-car operation was a gravel lot with strings of light bulbs. Back then, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. didn't object to sharing space. "It was a nice gravel lot," Rohrman deadpans.
That turning point led, more than four decades later, to Bob Rohrman Auto Group, the 15th-largest U.S. dealership group. The group sells 11 brands at 36 dealerships in Indiana and Illinois.