Farmington Hills Auto Dealer Seller Buick/GMC has reached a milestone to celebrate its 50th anniversary in the automotive industry.
In 1972, original owner Bob Sellers opened his Pontiac dealership in Redford. His father owned a Ford dealership in Detroit, in Southfield and Rio Grande, and he grew up with a respect for the auto industry. An oil embargo hit the country in 1973, and Sellers’ new car dealership faced its first — and one of many — business challenges.
Over the years, he has continued to grow his business through a hands-on personal management style with clients and employees.
A lot has changed since the dealership opened in 1972, from the first car he sold, the 1972 Pontiac Grand Prix, to a new electric vehicle, the GMC Hummer EV pickup and SUV, on sale at the seller in 2024.
A major milestone in the history of the Cyrus Automotive Group was when Cyrus hired Sam Slaughter, who began working as their car wash at age 16, and two years later he graduated from the University of Michigan and took a job at General Motors.
Slaughter sees sellers as teachers and mentors in the business of car ownership. In 2006, Sellers handed the keys to their business to Slaughter, who embraced his new role as owner with enthusiasm and pride.
Slaughter has created three main rules for success in business, and he has set a pattern for himself to follow:
- don’t deceive anyone
- You take care of your employees and they will take care of your customers
- Be optimistic.Be the cheerleader and chief strategist behind your company’s goals
Forty years ago, Slaughter washed cars at Sellers, but the experience helped him value every job a dealership does, and how important the company values every employee as they focus on the customer.
The company’s tagline is “reputation is everything,” and 50 percent of its 215 sellers have worked at the dealership for 10 years or more, including 59 employees of Macomb Township-based seller Subaru, which was purchased in 2013.
In 2009, Sellers faced severe business difficulties. General Motors is eliminating its Pontiac lineup, and the model accounts for 65% of the seller’s annual business. GMC contributed 35%, but Pontiac’s loss was devastating.
However, their ability to adapt inside and out, and their vision and confidence in the management team will help support the marketing change that sets the stage for embracing the new GM Buick lineup. In 2005, sellers sold zero Buicks, and in 2010 they sold more Buicks than any other dealer in the country.
Not only did the seller transition from Pontiac to Buick in 2009, but it was also working on a $1.5 million showroom renovation in Farmington Hills. Reinvesting in the community has always been a major focus for their business to give back when needed.
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Today’s success is very different from 1972. About 95% of sales today are related to the Internet in some way through online site searches. The phone rang instead of the customer coming in through the front door. About 60% of their business is new car sales, 80% of which is leasing, the preferred method of purchase.
Buyers look for the best car options at the most affordable prices and then shop around for different dealers. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the seller purchased 2 flatbed trucks so they could deliver the car to the buyer’s home without having to go to the dealership. While inventory of new vehicles is low across all dealerships, sellers are finding that their used car market, including selling existing rental cars that are ready to hand in, helps continue to meet current market demand.
Slaughter said GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra’s vision for the future has been the driving force behind the success of the GM brand. General Electric Vehicle Technology will continue to provide cars and trucks that meet the needs of the public. Sellers have sold 5 new Hummers and more than 200 are on the waiting list for the 2024 electric Hummer pickup and SUV through their GMC product line.
Fifty years in business is no accident. When there are 22 other local dealers selling the same product, 60% of their business is “returning customers”.
Slaughter is a key member of the Farmington Hills Economic Development Council, and his company’s 50-year history serves as a template for scrutiny of other businesses in the city.
Seller Buick/GMC at 38000 Grand River Ave. in Farmington Hills. Visit Sellersbuickgmc.com or 248-579-4398.