Farmington Hills auto dealership, Sellers Buick/GMC, reached a milestone and celebrated 50 years in the automotive business.
Bob Sellers, the original owner, opened his Pontiac dealership in Redford in 1972. His father owned a Detroit Ford dealership in Southfield and Grand River, and he grew up admiring the auto industry. The oil embargo hit the country in 1973, and Sellers’ new dealership faced its first – one of many – business challenges.
He continued to grow his business over the years through his personal hands-on leadership style with his clients and his employees.
A lot has changed since 1972, when the dealership opened, from one of its first cars sold, the 1972 Pontiac Grand Prix, to the new electric car going on sale at Sellers in 2024, the GMC Hummer EV pickup and SUV.
A major milestone in the history of Sellers Automotive Group was the hiring of Sam Slaughter by Sellers, first as a car washer when he was 16 on a summer job, and years later after graduating from the University of Michigan and for General Motors had worked.
Slaughter viewed Sellers as a teacher and mentor in the car ownership business. In 2006, Sellers handed the keys to his business to Slaughter, who embraced his new role as owner with passion and pride.
Slaughter has three main rules for being successful in business that he has figured himself to follow:
- Don’t cheat anyone out of anything
- You take care of your employees and they take care of your customers
- be positive Be the cheerleader and the chief strategist behind the company’s goals
Forty years ago, Slaughter washed cars at Sellers, but that experience helped him appreciate every job at the dealership, as well as the company’s importance of valuing every employee as they focus on their customers.
The company’s slogan is “reputation is everything” and 50% of Sellers 215 employees have been with the dealership for 10 years or more, including their 59 employees at Sellers Subaru in Macomb Township, which was purchased in 2013.
In 2009, Sellers faced a critical business dilemma. General Motors discontinued its Pontiac product line, and that model accounted for 65% of Seller’s annual sales. GMC contributed 35%, but the loss of Pontiac was devastating.
However, her ability to adapt inside and out, believing that her vision and trust in her management team would help support the marketing changes, set the stage needed to embrace their new GM Buick product line. In 2005, the dealers sold zero Buicks and in 2010 they sold more Buicks than any other dealership in the country.
In addition to moving from Pontiac to Buick in 2009, Sellers also spearheaded a $1.5 million renovation of the Farmington Hills showroom. Reinvesting in the community has always been a key focus for their company to give back in times of need.
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Success today is very different than it was in 1972. Approximately 95% of sales today are connected to the Internet in some way through online website searches. Phones ring instead of customers coming through the front door. About 60% of their business is new car sales and 80% of that is leasing, which is the preferred buying method.
Buyers are looking for the best car options at the cheapest cost and are looking at different dealers. During the Covid-19 pandemic, sellers bought 2 flatbed trucks so they could deliver cars to buyer’s homes, eliminating the need to come to the dealership. Although new car inventory is low at all dealerships, sellers found that their used car market, including selling existing leased cars ready for return, helped continue to meet current market needs.
Slaughter said that the vision of the future of General Motors chairman and chief executive officer Mary Barra has been a driving force behind the success of the GM brand. GM’s electric car technology will continue to deliver cars and trucks that meet public demand. Vendors have already sold 5 new Hummers and more than 200 on a waiting list for the 2024 Hummer electric pickup and SUV to be sold through their GMC line.
Fifty years in business is no accident. Sixty percent of his business is “repeat buyers” when there are 22 other local merchants selling the same products.
Slaughter is a valued member of the Farmington Hills Economic Development Committee and his company’s 50 year history is a template for other companies in our city.
Sellers Buick/GMC is located at 38000 Grand River Ave. in Farmington Hills. Reachable at sellersbuickgmc.com or 248-579-4398.