Ali Reda knew he was having a great year. It remains to be confirmed just how great.
Reda, a salesman at Les Stanford Chevrolet and Les Stanford Cadillac, both in Dearborn, Mich., was selling on average almost 130 cars a month. It wasn't so unusual for the supersalesman, who had sold nearly 1,300 vehicles in 2016.
In the back of his mind, he knew he was closing in on a seemingly unattainable figure: 1,425. That's the Guinness World Record for "Most cars sold by a salesman in a year," set by ubersalesman Joe Girard in 1973.
"Joe Girard is a pretty big name in our industry, so I've always known about it. Everybody knew that was the magic number," Reda says. "We had such a huge start to the year, and it kept going. We kept getting momentum going. Somewhere around May or June I realized, if we stay focused we might have a shot at it."
Even knowing it was coming, Reda says, he was taken aback when he found out in December that he had surpassed the long- standing world record.
By the latest count, he sold 1,582 vehicles in 2017 — 1,298 new and 284 used.
"Time stopped for a moment. I don't know if I ever thought it was as big of a deal as it turned out to be," he says. "It took 12 consecutive great months to break that record."
One month before finding out he broke the record, Reda called his idol and left a voicemail.
"I reached out to him before I broke the record because I knew it was coming," Reda says. "All I said is that it would be an honor to meet him one day, and I never got a call back."
It wasn't until General Motors asked Girard to appear at an award ceremony at the Detroit auto show honoring Reda as the new sales champ that there was a response. And it wasn't pretty.
"We got backlash from them from the get-go, saying, 'This is fraud. This isn't real,' " Reda says. "They didn't believe it from the beginning. 'Oh, it's fleet. It's wholesale.' "
Girard had plenty of reasons to be dubious. At least five times before, someone had claimed to have broken his record. In each case, the claim didn't stand up to investigation. Girard says that until the individual sales are verified, as his were, he has nothing to say to Reda.
"I don't take no one's word. I want somebody to go into the dealership and audit every sale. Make sure they are his, and not someone else's," Girard says.
In his case, the dealer principal of his store, Merollis Chevrolet, paid for Deloitte & Touche auditors to go into the dealership's books and verify that he had made and been paid for each retail sale. Guinness investigators independently confirmed his record.
Guinness World Records has dispatched its commercial account services team to Les Stanford. A Guinness spokeswoman would not disclose the process to verify a record has been broken, but said that the investigators require "pieces of evidence that are based on the record category."
Praise from Girard will be reserved until the numbers come through.
"I will congratulate that person like you wouldn't believe," Girard says, "when they prove it."