Since 1973, Joe Girard has held the title for most cars sold by a salesman in one year: 1,425. Others have claimed to have outsold him, but those claims failed to hold up when investigated.
Enter Ali Reda, a salesman at Les Stanford Chevrolet and Les Stanford Cadillac, both in Dearborn, Mich. He claims to have shattered that record, selling 1,582 last year. General Motors backs him up, although tallies of Reda's new vs. used sales have changed, and Guinness World Records is conducting its own investigation.
Both men amassed sales by using multiple assistants. Both believe deeply in the value of word-of-mouth marketing and in going the extra mile for their customers.
But they sold in different eras, with sharply different styles. Here are their stories, which show the similarities and differences of two men who know how to move the metal.
Reda entered the car business after 10 years at Michigan Industrial Belting, leaving when "there was no more advancement," he says. "Next in line was the owner."
Reda sold cars for 10 years at Bill Wink Chevrolet in Dearborn, until that franchise was terminated in June 2010 as part of GM's bankruptcy. He has been at Les Stanford for seven years.
Reda attributes the bulk of his success to his team. Assistant Merna Beydoun handles the paperwork. Sam Awada, says Reda, is his "young legs."
Reda, who says he read Girard's books and absorbed the lessons, swears by a hands-on approach to selling.
"I have a specific process in place that allows us to be efficient: I handle the deal from beginning to end," Reda says. "I do F&I; I do everything. A lot of dealers are not going to agree with that. You have to earn that later in your career."
The thrill of closing a sale, Reda says, takes a back seat to the joy of putting customers in cars that are right for them. "It doesn't feel like a job at that point," he says. "You're affecting lives, and first-time buyers. We as car salespeople sometimes forget how exciting it is to purchase a vehicle because we do it all the time."
Reda's success, he says, comes from building relationships in the largely Arabic community of Dearborn. Many shoppers entering his dealership are already his friends, he says. Getting out of the dealership and spending time in community centers and at social events makes all the difference.
"Earn the business, earn the trust of your community. Dearborn — we're a tightknit community. I can throw up a billboard at a local community center, but me being physically at that center is what's real," Reda says. "They would rather deal with someone that's real than just a face on a billboard."