Guinness Records' Top Car Salesman, 89, Fights the Very Idea that He's been Topped
SOURCE: DETROIT FREE PRESS
BY: PHOEBE WALL HOWARD
Records are made to be broken — but maybe not without a fight.
A Cadillac and Chevrolet salesman from Dearborn appears to have set a single-year sales record in 2017. But the Chevrolet dealership retiree listed by Guinness World Records for more than 40 years says he doesn’t believe it.
“This guy claims he beat my record of 1,425 new cars that I sold in 1973,” said Joe Girard, 89, of Grosse Pointe Shores. “What I did immediately, I called my attorney.”
Ali Reda sold 1,530 new vehicles and 52 used vehicles in 2017, averaging about 130 vehicles a month, according to Les Stanford Chevrolet Cadillac. The new vehicle total alone, recognized by General Motors, would be enough to break the record.
“It’s very official, trust me,” said Gary Stanford, 65, whose father founded the dealership. “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.”
He praised Girard’s sales accomplishments and didn’t sound concerned about a lawsuit.
“If he wants to waste time and money, well, God bless him,” Stanford said. “This is no different from the sporting world. One team doesn’t win every single year.”
Girard said he has talked with two lawyers. He had his wife call the dealership and challenge the claims. He said he plans to go to the dealership and demand to see documentation.
“If somebody beat my record, honestly, I would be proud of that person,” Girard said. “My attorney is going to get a court order to go into that dealership and have him audited. That’s where I’m going on Monday.
“We want to know if the company’s giving numbers they shouldn’t. If they did, they will be sued beyond their wildest dreams. The dealership knows the numbers. They better be careful, according to my attorneys. We’ll make sure no games are played. Or we’re going to get that dealer big time.”
The reaction has surprised GM officials and owners of the second-generation family dealership. They invited Girard and his wife to attend an awards breakfast at the Motor City Casino on Jan. 18, with 300 attendees honoring Reda.
Joe and Kitty Girard declined to attend.
“We thought it would be nice, like handing over the green jacket at the PGA,” Reda said.
No one involved in the situation can understand how a man who worked in the automotive industry is challenging the record-keeping. GM officials carefully track computerized sales data, which include highly detailed buyer information, and it is submitted to the Detroit automaker daily.
Colleagues describe Reda as uniquely gracious and humble.
He asks some customers to go home, save their money and return in a year or two when their financials are in better shape. He sometimes refers business to competitors whose vehicles better fit a customer’s lifestyle.
“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.”
His philosophy has built intense loyalty over 17 years.
“People come to me with their automobile problems and I’ll solve the issue,” Reda said. “Like, somebody comes in who owes more on a car than it’s worth. Well, we need to sit down and figure out the best plan for now and how not to let that happen again in the future. Single mothers come in, they’re on a fixed income, their kid’s growing up and needs a car and can’t afford much. I grew up pretty much with a single mother myself, so I understand what she had to give up in her life to give us opportunities and the love we had. “
Reda’s 2017 sales have been submitted to Guinness World Records. Guinness, which is based in England, confirmed discussion has begun.
“That’s huge. That’s a head-shaker. It’s like the number is wrong, but it’s not,” said Terry Burns, executive director of the Michigan Automobile Dealers Association. “He sells more cars than probably the average dealer in the state, and he does it himself.”
‘Michael Jordan of car sales’
Merna Beydoun, a sales assistant who supports Reda, says her boss has taken calls from customers after their cars have been totaled. “They don’t know the process. They ask what to do, what are the steps? He asks if they’ve contacted their insurance company and goes through the whole process.”
After three years of working for Reda, nothing surprises her. “If a customer calls and tells him, ‘I have a flat tire’ and ‘come get me and get my car towed,’ he goes out of his way to do that.”
Salesman Mohamad (Catfish) Baidoun, 46, works at Jorgensen Ford in Detroit and gets referrals from Reda. “If someone sells 30 to 40 cars a month, it takes almost everything out of you. Ali Reda is the Michael Jordan of car sales.”
Amad Elzayat, 45, a law enforcement officer from Dearborn Heights, appears to have pushed Reda over the finish line with the purchase of a 2018 Chevy Silverado last fall.
“I was a Ford guy,” said Elzayat, who bought the pickup to transport food and clothing to needy families in his spare time. “I knew Ali from sports. He just goes above and beyond.”
Reda grew up as one of seven children near Warren Avenue and the Southfield Freeway.
“We had a station wagon and a minivan growing up. It was horrible,” he said. “I can’t get that out of my mind.”
He earned an associate’s degree in business while playing basketball at Henry Ford Community College with a dream of playing pro. “I’m 6 feet tall and if I had just 6 more inches, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
He worked 10 years at a conveyor belt distribution company and realized the two brothers who owned it couldn’t really promote him.
“I knew there was more opportunity out there. So I took a shot. I looked at real estate and automotive. I kind of went with what my heart told me.”
Now he drives a 2017 Cadillac Escalade and a 2016 Corvette, spending weekends with his wife and 9-year-old twins at the summer house in Brooklyn, Mich.
The current record holder owns joegirard.com, a website titled, “World’s Greatest Salesman.”
Girard’s bio describes him as a high school dropout who worked as a shoeshine boy, then a newsboy at the Free Press at the age of 9, then a dishwasher, a stove assembler and a home building contractor. He went on to sell 13,001 cars at a Chevrolet dealership between 1963 and 1978, become a paid speaker and author of “How to Sell Anything to Anybody and How to Close Every Sale.”
Kitty Girard emphasized her husband’s record reflected retail sales of new, non-fleet vehicles. She cautioned against suggesting her husband’s record had been broken until Guinness officials had finished auditing and reviewing the data.
“It’s just hearsay,” Kitty Girard said. “You don’t want to say anyone sold more cars than Joe Girard.”