Farmington Hills car dealership Sellers Buick/GMC reached a milestone, celebrating 50 years in the automotive business.
Bob Sellers, the original owner, opened his Pontiac car dealership in 1972 in Redford. His father owned a Ford dealership in Detroit, located at Southfield and Grand River, and he grew up admiring the car industry. The oil embargo hit the country in 1973, and Sellers’ new car dealership faced its first – one of many – business challenges.
He continued to grow his business over the years through his personal hands-on management style with his customers 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 being sold at Sellers in 2024, the GMC Hummer EV Pickup and SUV.
A major milestone in Sellers Automotive Group history was Sellers’ hiring of Sam Slaughter, first as their car washer when he was 16 on a summer job, to years later after he graduated from the University of Michigan and had worked for General Motors.
Slaughter looked to Sellers as a teacher and mentor in the car ownership business. 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 major rules to achieve success in business that he has patterned himself to follow:
- Don’t cheat anyone out of anything
- You take care of your employees and they will take care of your customers
- Be positive. Be the cheerleader and the chief strategist behind the goals of the company
Forty years ago Slaughter was washing cars at Sellers, however that experience helped him to value every job at the dealer, as well as the importance of the company valuing each employee as they focus on their customers.
The company tag line is “Reputation is Everything,” and 50% of Sellers 215 employees have been with the dealership for 10 years or more, and this includes their 59 employees at Sellers Subaru in Macomb Township, which was purchased in 2013.
In 2009, Sellers was faced with a critical business dilemma. General Motors was canceling its Pontiac product line, and this model made up 65% of Seller’s annual business. GMC contributed 35%, but the loss of Pontiac was devastating.
However, their ability to adapt inside and outside, to believe that their vision and confidence within their management team would help support the marketing changes, set the stage needed to embrace their new GM Buick product line. In 2005 Sellers sold zero Buicks, and in 2010 they sold more Buicks than any other dealer in the country.
Not only was Sellers transitioning from Pontiac to Buick in 2009 but it was moving ahead on a $1.5 million showroom renovation in Farmington Hills. Reinvesting into the community has always been a major focus for their business to give back during a time of need.
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Success today is much different than in 1972. About 95% of the sales today are tied to the internet in some way, through online website searches. Phones are ringing instead of customers coming through the front door. Roughly 60% of their business is new car sales, and 80% of them are leases, which is the preferred method of buying.
Buyers search for the best car options at the most affordable cost, and they shop around at different dealers. During the Covid-19 pandemic Sellers bought 2 flatbed trucks so they could deliver cars to the buyer’s homes, eliminating the need for them to come into the dealership. Although new car inventory is low for all dealers, Sellers found that their used car market, including selling existing leased cars that were ready to be turned in, helped to continue to meet the current market needs.
Slaughter said that the future vision of Mary Barra, chair & chief executive officer of General Motors, has been a driving force to the success of the GM brand. The GM electric car technology will continue to deliver cars and trucks that meet the demand of the public. Sellers already have 5 new Hummers sold, and more than 200 on a waitlist for the 2024 electric Hummer pick-up and SUV, being sold through their GMC product line.
Fifty years in business doesn’t happen by accident. Sixty percent of its business is “repeat buyers” when there are 22 other local dealers selling the same products.
Slaughter is a valued member of the Farmington Hills Economic Development Committee, and his company’s 50 years in business is a template for other businesses in our city to review.
Sellers Buick/GMC is located at 38000 Grand River Ave. in Farmington Hills. Reach it at sellersbuickgmc.com or 248-579-4398.