Farmington Hills dealership, Buick/GMC, has reached a milestone, celebrating 50 years in the automotive industry.
Bob Sellers, the original owner, opened the Pontiac Auto Show in 1972 in Redford. His father owned a Ford dealership in Detroit, located in Southfield and Grand River, and he grew up as a fan of the automobile industry. The oil embargo hit the country in 1973, and Sellers new-car dealerships faced their first commercial challenges—one of many.
He has continued to grow his business over the years through his personal style of managing with his clients and employees.
A lot has changed since 1972 when the dealership opened, from one of his first cars sold, the 1972 Pontiac Grand Prix, to the new electric vehicle being sold at dealerships in 2024, the GMC Hummer EV pickup and SUV.
A major achievement in Sellers Automotive Group’s history was the hiring of salesmen for Sam Slaughter, first as a car washer when he was 16 on a summer job, and years later after he graduated from the University of Michigan and worked for General Motors.
Slaughter viewed Sellers as a teacher and mentor in the field of car ownership. In 2006, Sellers gave the keys to his business to Slaughter, who accepted his new role as owner with passion and pride.
Slaughter has three main rules for success in the business that he designed himself to follow:
- Don’t cheat anyone about anything
- You take care of your employees and they will take care of your customers
- be positive. Be the leader and key strategist behind the company’s goals
Forty years ago, Slaughter would wash cars for sellers, but this experience helped him evaluate every dealer job, as well as the importance of the company’s appreciation of each employee because it focuses on its customers.
The company’s motto is “Reputation is everything,” and 50% of the 215 sellers have worked for the agency for 10 years or more, and that includes 59 employees at Sellers Subaru in Macomb Township, which was acquired in 2013.
In 2009, sellers faced a critical commercial dilemma. General Motors was canceling the Pontiac product line, and that model made up 65% of the seller’s annual business. GMC contributed 35%, but Pontiac’s loss was devastating.
However, their ability to adapt at home and abroad, to believe that their insight and confidence within their management team will help support marketing changes, and set the stage for embracing GM Buick’s new product line. In 2005, sellers sold zero Buicks, and in 2010 they sold more Buicks than any other dealer in the country.
Not only were the sellers moving from Pontiac to Buick in 2009, they were moving ahead with the renovation of a $1.5 million showroom in Farmington Hills. Reinvesting in the community has always been a major focus of their business to give back during their time of need.
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Success today is very different from what it was in 1972. About 95% of sales today are related to the Internet in some way, through web site searches on the Internet. Phones ring instead of customers entering through the front door. Nearly 60% of their business is new car sales, 80% of which are leases, which is the preferred method of buying.
Buyers are looking for the best car options at an affordable cost, and they shop at different dealers. During the COVID-19 pandemic, sellers bought two flatbed trucks so they could deliver the cars to the buyer’s homes, eliminating the need for them to enter the dealership. Despite the low stock of new cars for all dealers, sellers found that their used car market, including the sale of existing rental cars that were ready for delivery, helped to continue to meet the needs of the current market.
Slaughter said the future vision of Mary Barra, President and CEO of General Motors, has been a driving force for the success of the GM brand. General Motors’ electric vehicle technology will continue to provide cars and trucks that meet public demand. Sellers have already sold 5 new Hummers, and more than 200 are on the waiting list for the Hummer 2024 electric truck and SUV, being sold through their GMC product line.
Fifty years in the business don’t happen by chance. Sixty percent of its business is “repetitive buyers” when there are 22 other local merchants selling the same products.
Slaughter is an important member of the Farmington Hills Economic Development Commission, and his 50-year business is a model for other businesses in our city to review.
Buick/GMC vendors are located at 38000 Grand River Ave. in Farmington Hills. You can reach him at sellerbuickgmc.com or 248-579-4398.