Someone asked me the other day if the time to become an automobile dealer had passed. My immediate response was that becoming a dealer is still the best way in America to become a millionaire.
A young person can go to work for a dealership and within 10 or 20 years have a store of their own — and a net worth of a million dollars. You become a salesman, do a good job, then become a manager, then a general manager. Or you hire on in the service department, become a service writer and then manage the service department.
Then it is onward and upward.
The retail automobile business is special in that it gives so many people the chance to rise through the ranks and become managers and owners. That doesn't happen with big-box stores or fast-food franchises.
When it comes to upward mobility for young executives this is the business to be in. Take a look at some of the most successful dealers and you will nearly always find someone who rose from the ground up.
One of the keys is the availability of capital. Certainly one of the most profitable parts of a car company's portfolio is its arm for wholesale and retail credit for dealers. So there is a lot of available capital, as long as you are comfortable working with borrowed money. And once you are established it is easier to acquire more capital for expansion.
Schools such as Northwood University are preparing young people for careers in auto retailing, giving their graduates a leg up on the competition.
If someone has a passion for business and also happens to love automobiles, it's a marriage made in heaven. A perfect combination. In fact, not many businesses are able to combine business and pleasure so well.
This year the auto industry is going to be off a couple of percentage points, but it will still be a great year and most dealerships will have a banner year. Even when the car business is off, it's still pretty good.
When Dustin Hoffman's character in The Graduate was looking for a career, a family friend said "plastics." He should have said: "Be a car dealer."