Car Buying

Seventies super-salesman challenges new car-sales record

Joe Girard won't let his Guinness record go down without a fight

Some of the fondest memories from my youth were the Sunday afternoons spent walking between rows of new and used cars. This preceded the advent of widely available internet, so the cars didn't sell themselves online: A tentative buyer had to come see the cars in the metal, with old-school salesmen taking well-earned smoke breaks after putting someone behind the wheel of a new Saab 900. All-inclusive subscription services were unheard of.

If you open a Guinness records book and look up car salesmen, you'll find Joe Girard. The definitely old-school Detroit salesman regularly sold over 1,000 new cars per year, with a particular high point of 1,425 cars in 1973 guaranteeing him a mention in the Guinness book. To reach that kind of sales figure, you had to be a pretty special salesman, and Girard was. He didn't take breaks unless absolutely necessary, and even his lunch hours were dedicated to selling more cars instead of shooting the breeze with other sales persons. By 1977 he was worn through, having sold over 13,000 cars in his career, and his physique couldn't take it anymore. He's been a motivational speaker since.

Now, 44 years later, a Dearborn, Mich., Cadillac and Chevrolet salesman named Ali Reda has reportedly broken Girard's record. The books at Les Stanford Chevrolet Cadillac say Reda sold 1,530 new cars and 52 used cars in 2017, averaging 130 vehicles per month.

But after Girard, 89, heard of the sales record, he called his attorney, not letting his record be broken without a fight — or at least an audit. The Dearborn dealer isn't too concerned about Girard's doubts, at least according to Gary Stanford, whose father founded the dealership. "It's very official, trust me," said Stanford to the Detroit Free Press. "Ali is the hardest worker I've ever seen. And if someone doesn't believe the data, well, they're more than welcome to consult with GM. It's all there in black and white."

What Girard doesn't get is that Reda was honoring him with the accomplishment.

"I read his book, 'How to Sell Anything to Anybody,' and it said it would teach you how to become the best," said Reda, who at age 44 was a newborn when Girard hit his peak. "He's an absolute legend in the industry. Your whole career, you're chasing his name. So now his reaction, well, it's kind of a gut shot."

The Freep story is filled with testimonials from Reda's customers and coworkers as to his humble, helpful, gracious approach, one that has built a base of loyal return customers over 17 years in the business.

"I'm more of an adviser than a car salesman," Reda said. "That may mean not selling a car. That happens a lot. People come back and thank you."

Girard, meanwhile, even declined to attend festivities honoring Reda's achievement.

"I mean, I would be honored to shake his hand," Reda told the Freep. "Joe Girard is a big figure in our industry. His accomplishments don't diminish my work. He set the pace for me. He gave me a goal."

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