Many 5-year-old boys want to be firefighters or astronauts when they grow up. But Eric Frehsee was not like other 5-year-olds.

“Since five, my answer to ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ has always been the same: a car dealer,” Frehsee told Automotive News.

That single-minded determination was sparked by Frehsee’s grandfather Marvin Tamaroff, who opened a Buick dealership in 1969 on farmland at 12 Mile and Telegraph roads in Southfield, Mich.

Frehsee recalls visits to the dealership from as early as age 3. Through high school and college, Frehsee worked summers at the family business.

“I love seeing the evolution of cars and technology,” said the car collector and Formula One racing aficionado. “I like shaking someone’s hand, looking them in the eye, and making them happy.”

Today, Frehsee oversees Tamaroff Group’s six stores in suburban Detroit that represent Honda, Acura, Nissan and Kia. As president, he also manages the company’s commercial rental business and a boutique vehicle leasing unit.

“I like knowing that I’m continuing my grandfather’s legacy,” said the father of two.

Since taking over the top job in 2019, Frehsee said Tamaroff Group’s profitability has quadrupled, while revenues are up about 20 percent.

“Kia is the rising star,” he said. “It was the manufacturer we put the most money behind.”

An early adopter of digital retail, Frehsee credits technology with helping the dealership group navigate the pandemic-era turbulence.

“When COVID hit, I had digital retailing in all my stores,” he said. “It was absolutely a differentiator because, for the first couple of months coming back to sales, everything had to be done remotely.”

Frehsee has also relied on technology to enable his employees to work shorter days and weeks without losing productivity.

“We’re selling more cars in fewer hours by working smarter,” he said. “That has helped with employee turnover and morale.”

With the pandemic in the rearview mirror, Frehsee is watching another industry-disrupting challenge — the transition from fossil fuel to battery-powered vehicles. He said he believes manufacturers are pushing EVs on the consumer, mainly due to government mandates.

“Consumers aren’t quite ready for full electrification,” Frehsee said. “But we look forward to helping them get there.”


Sales of the Nissan Rogue compact crossover surged 69% in the first half of the year.

Nissan Motor Co. has turned on the incentive spigot to strengthen its position in the compact crossover segment.

In January, the Japanese automaker began offering three-year, 0 percent financing on its bestselling Rogue.

It’s an attempt to pick up market share in a key segment, dealers and analysts said. And through the first half of the year, Rogue sales surged 69 percent to 147,745 vehicles.

Nissan dealer Eric Frehsee said the lucrative financing offer is “definitely not a sign that there are any issues with the Rogue.”

The crossover is “consistently our No. 1 seller,” said Frehsee, president of Tamaroff Group, which operates two Nissan stores in suburban Detroit. “Rogue represents over 50 percent of our sales.”

Frehsee described the financing offer as an “advertising play” to attract consumers.

“Interest rates are so high on the leases right now that you can’t really advertise the lease price and be super competitive,” he said. “They’re putting all their horsepower behind [the Rogue] to try to move as many as possible.”

Former Nissan National Dealer Advisory Board Chairman Scott Smith said 0 percent financing is attractive for payment buyers in a high-interest environment.

“It drives a lower payment,” said Smith, president of Smith Automotive Group, which operates four Nissan dealerships in suburban Atlanta. “It appeals to the consumer seeing 5 percent to 6 percent interest rates. So it appeals to a broader spectrum.”

Smith said Nissan’s focus on the Rogue makes sense.

“This is a core model and an area we need to focus customer retention on,” he said. “[The segment] is where we do best and is the place to compete.”

Nissan North America sales and marketing boss Michael Colleran said the financing offer on the Rogue is a win for customers.

“Consumer affordability is definitely getting stretched right now,” Colleran said. “People are just trying to figure out how to buy eggs and milk these days.”

Automakers prefer lowering interest payments over cutting sticker prices, which can ding residual values.

“It keeps the transaction price higher, and [dealers] get a retention tool,” Smith said.

Interest rate offers are an effective incentive, especially for Nissan’s price-sensitive customer base.

Ivan Drury, director of insights at Edmunds, said that 1 in 4 Rogue buyers in July “aren’t paying a dime in finance charges.”

Drury said that the Ford Escape and Hyundai Tucson, Rogue competitors, also have 0 percent offers, but with just an 18 percent take rate on the Escape and 6 percent on the Tucson.

A 36-month loan is a financing sweet spot because it matches the buying cycle with the vehicle warranty and drives customer loyalty.

“If a consumer comes out at 36 months, we know that they tend to be much more loyal” than at 72 months and 84 months, Colleran said. “Loyalty is very low when it comes to those longer terms, even if those terms are at lower rates.”

Shorter loan terms also create an earlier opportunity for repeat business.

“Oftentimes, you’ll see a consumer come into equity well before that 36 months,” Colleran said, allowing them to purchase again.

Sales sizzler

The compact crossover segment leads the industry in volume and is hypercompetitive, with 18 nameplates in the U.S.

Compact crossovers represent 1 in 5 vehicles sold, according to Edmunds.

Drury said inventory turnover time is at two weeks or less for some of the most desirable vehicles in the segment, showing tremendous demand despite ever-increasing new-car financing costs.

“There is not a single mainstream automaker that doesn’t aspire to do well in the segment where many new shoppers will land,” he said.

The Rogue, redesigned in 2020, is the third-fastest-growing nameplate in the segment behind the Mazda CX-50 and Buick Envision, according to the Automotive News Research & Data Center. It ranks third in volume behind the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V.

The Rogue is “essential to Nissan’s survival,” Drury said, noting the nameplate represents 1 in every 3 Nissans sold.

Supply stabilizes 

The financing offer arrives as Nissan dials up Rogue manufacturing after supply chain issues kneecapped output last year.

AutoForecast Solutions estimated that Rogue production rose 59 percent in the first six months compared with a year earlier. But compared with the first half of 2021, Rogue output is “basically flat,” said Sam Fiorani, AutoForecast Solutions vice president.

“In this competitive segment, maintaining volume is a good sign for the model and brand,” he said.

Frehsee said his Rogue allocations are 20 to 25 percent higher than a year earlier, adding the factory is doing better with the model mix. Nissan is “shifting production to the more affordable S and SV trims, which is great for dealers and customers,” he said.

But the improving supply, rising interest rates and stiffening competition are manifesting on Nissan dealership lots.

Drury said the time it takes to move Rogue inventory has nearly doubled since the beginning of the year, to 62 days in June.

“Nissan is producing more Rogues than it can sell,” he said.


SOURCE: Automotive News


SOUTHFIELD, Mich., July 24, 2023  Tamaroff Honda and Nissan, with more than 54 years of success built on surpassing customer expectations, has received a certification in the esteemed J.D. Power 2023 Dealer of Excellence Program. This program acknowledges a limited number of exceptional vehicle dealerships across the U.S. that consistently deliver outstanding customer service.

“At Tamaroff, our pursuit of customer satisfaction is a collective and never-ending effort,” said Eric Frehsée, president of The Tamaroff Group. “We engage each employee to deliver unparalleled levels of sales, service and expertise and this accomplishment is a testament to the dedication we get from every team member, every day.”

Known for its “Voice of the Customer” research for more than 50 years, J.D. Power and, subsequently, its Dealer of Excellence Program, help consumers identify leading retailers that will go the extra mile. Tamaroff, driven by an unyielding pursuit of improvement, constantly seeks innovative ways to enhance the customer experience and never rests on its laurels. By investing significant time and resources into refining their service processes, Tamaroff has cultivated a remarkable reputation for delivering excellence.

This commitment is exemplified by the comprehensive ‘Total Care by Tamaroff’ program, which extends to every new and qualifying pre-owned vehicle. This program encompasses a range of benefits, including:

  • Three oil changes and tire rotations and free car washes
  • A collision deductible reimbursement of up to $500 for three years
  • Convenient pickup and delivery for both sales and service
  • A 7-day vehicle exchange promise

Through these initiatives and many more, along with easy ways to schedule and receive vehicle service online or by phone, Tamaroff ensures each customer receives unparalleled care throughout their ownership journey.

According to J.D. Power, buying a vehicle is a significant financial transaction and can be stressful because there’s so much information to digest. The Dealer of Excellence Program assists auto buyers who are looking for an exceptional dealership where they can confidently buy a vehicle. Certified dealers also benefit by leveraging the J.D. Power brand and promoting their dealership’s commitment to an outstanding customer purchase experience.

J.D. Power 2023 Dealer of Excellence Program recognition is based on achievement of high scores from automotive manufacturer customer research and completion of an in-dealership best practices verification visit.


Partnerships all come down to the mindsets of dealers and manufacturers, say industry insiders. 

Steve Finlay | Jun 12, 2023

BIRMINGHAM, MI – Automaker-dealer collaboration is essential and should increase in this new age of auto retailing.

So says Eric Frehsee, president of the Tamaroff Automotive Group, a six-franchise dealership organization based in Southfield, MI, in metro Detroit.

Some automakers collaborate with dealers better than others, he says during an Automotive Press Assn. panel discussion here.

“It depends on the manufacturer,” Frehsee says.

Overall, dealer-OEM relations have improved over the years, but could the collaboration between the two improve?

“Yes,” Frehsee says.

He cites examples. One of them is automakers helping dealers recruit and train auto technicians to work on the growing number of battery-electric vehicles.

“It’s particularly hard for medium and small dealerships to recruit new technicians for EVs,” Frehsee says. “OEMs can be a resource.”

He adds: “The future is scary to some extent. Something like the EV transformation is not something (dealers) can handle alone.”

Data sharing is cited as another area needing stronger dealer-OEM teamwork.

Right now, such information sharing can seem like a one-way street. “In some past cases, we’ve shared our data with OEMs, but they haven’t shared their data with us,” Frehsee says.     

Panelists agree auto industry teamwork is vital to sell vehicles in post-pandemic times that have seen inventory and labor shortages, the growing popularity of EVs and customers increasingly using digital auto retailing tools to shop for and buy cars.

“The last few years have been wildly interesting,” says Matt VanDyke, president of Shift Digital, an auto-retailing technology company, and formerly CEO of FordDirect, an initiative that digitally connects consumers to dealers.

He cites a need for dealers and automakers to work closely to satisfy customers online and in person.

“We see the franchise dealer model as the best way to deliver a world-class customer experience, but it’s tough,” VanDyke says.

Seeing “a dramatic shift in customer expectations” is panelist Jessica Stafford, senior vice president of consumer solutions for Cox Automotive, whose holdings include Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book. “Consumer expectations are high.”

When COVID-related mandates in some states temporarily closed many dealership showrooms, and car consumers subsequently pivoted to online buying, “some progressive dealers were digitally ready, but a lot weren’t,” she says.      

According to a Cox study, the peak of auto customer satisfaction ironically was during the COVID year of 2020.

Today, economic concerns and high interest rates are holding back some would-be car buyers, she says. “But they are still shopping like crazy. We’ve seen the strongest digital traffic in years on Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book, she says.

Likewise, Shift Digital has seen dealer website traffic increase  20%. Yet, sales leads are down 20%.

“It’s the economy,” VanDyke says. “Cars are more expensive, and interest rates are higher.”

Frehsee says his dealership group employs some outstanding veteran salespeople who nonetheless struggle to interact with customers digitally, such as during sales-related text messaging.

That’s why the Tamaroff Group set up a business development department to field customer inquiries by phone, text or email.

But, he adds: “We need to find a way to collaborate with OEMs by using their scale to train dealership people so they embrace digital retailing. It’s not successful to say, ‘We have digital retailing’ and then walk away from it.”

Stafford sees an ideal situation in which automakers and dealers collaboratively offer digital tools to customers.

Such cooperation requires automakers and dealers working more closely together, VanDyke says.

He cites a friction point, though: “Dealers are saying, ‘Leave us alone, we’re doing this,’ and manufacturers are saying, ‘You’re not doing it right.’”

Some dealers fret that automakers’ digital attempts to garner sales leads infringe on their territory.

“But dealers need to understand that brands are going to interact with customers,” VanDyke says.

SOURCE: Wards Auto


Post-COVID digital car sales require dealers and automakers to work together on hybrid strategies to meet customers’ needs.

June 09, 2023 09:34 AM

The post-pandemic digital vehicle sales environment requires dealers and automakers to shift the way they market to and serve customers, said panelists at a recent Automotive Press Association event.

“The environment today, post-COVID really is extremely different than it was pre-pandemic, whether it be inventory or supply chain shortages, labor shortages,” Eric Frehsee, president of Tamaroff Auto Group in Southfield, Mich., said during the June 7 APA panel discussion in Birmingham, Mich.

“The transformation, the digital transformation, the way consumers are shopping with dealers today, it’s changed the entire landscape in our business,” he said. “There’s been a lot of changes with the OEMs in regards to how they work with our dealership network to embrace these changes, whether it be through technology and software, through training.”

Tamaroff, a 55-year-old family-owned business, has six metro Detroit retail dealerships and sells Acura, Honda, Kia and Nissan.

Frehsee stressed the importance of automakers understanding that although the pandemic sparked rapid changes in the industry, the decades-old dealership model will need a lot of time to evolve. Automakers need to lean more on dealers for marketing data, he said.

“We have to figure out better ways to communicate with customers,” Frehsee said. “Just saying ‘buy now’ on your website so that we can tout that we’re able to sell online doesn’t necessarily mean we’re communicating with the customer the way they need to be communicated with.” Tamaroff said his group takes a hybrid approach using digital and in-store customer interactions.

“What we’ve done internally is really focused on streamlining the process and being able to take a hybrid approach where you’ve got a customer that wants to do the research online,” he said. “They want to price out their car, they want to value their trade, giving them the tools and the resources to do that, but then using technology so that when they do come into the showroom floor, because the take-rate on people buying 100 percent online is in the single digits.”

Room for improvement

The post-COVID-19 environment “when cars were selling themselves” created “a lot of bad habits” in the dealerships, Frehsee said.

“A lot of the after-sale, delivery, going over the features and benefits of the vehicle, some of those steps were getting skipped,” he said. “This is a major challenge in our industry when it comes to the retraining and the transformation of EV in the dealerships, because there’s a lack of knowledge and experience and training that exists on our end that frankly, here’s one of the things that we need to lean on the OEM for, and that’s training.”

Veteran salespeople at Tamaroff may have large clienteles but couldn’t adapt to  communicating with customers digitally, he said. In response to that, Tamaroff in May launched a newly built 12-seat business development center to field incoming Internet and phone leads.

Another panelist, Matt VanDyke, a former FordDirect CEO who helped create the automaker’s digital retailing, said “dealers have the opportunity to control a lot of what’s happening by having a pulse on what’s happening in the market and adjusting their digital storefront, their websites.”

Having the right words on a dealer website is essential to optimize online traffic, he added.

“Because so many brands actually kind of have a full shelf of inventory, yet when you go on their websites, you see things like ‘check for availability,’ search for if this car can still be found and customers are smart, they don’t know there’s a 90 days’ supply, but they know there’s plenty of certain models out there,” said VanDyke, now president of Shift Digital, a Birmingham, Mich., digital marketing company.

Data sharing

Collaboration between dealers and automakers also is key, especially when it comes to digital marketing, he said.

“OEMs tend to underestimate the fact that 70 percent of the shopping in the industry is happening on dealer websites,” VanDyke said, noting they’re looking for information on price, payment, inventory and availability.

“You can get into a tunnel mindset as a brand that’s just thinking about your website and thinking that’s going to solve everything, and it’s not. Beyond that, dealers have to recognize that in addition to them owning their data, controlling it, understanding their data-sharing agreements and things like that, that brands are going to interact with their customers via their branded apps that everybody has to open and lock the doors and now schedule service and do things like that. That’s where the collaboration has to come in, because the technology exists that the customer is going to interact with both entities.”

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The customer experience

Jessica Stafford, senior vice president of consumer solutions for service and technology provider Cox Automotive, said meeting customer expectations “comes down to connecting experiences.”

Cox’s Car Buyer Journey Studies showed customer satisfaction was down in 2022 compared with the previous two years, she said. Financing replaced inventory constraints as the biggest challenge for buyers who also said they prioritize saving time in the car shopping experience.

Giving consumers “personalized, intuitive experiences where they can shop where they want, they can buy where they want” is essential,” said Stafford, who has 16 years of experience in automotive marketing and previously managed search engine marketing and optimization for Coke and Royal Caribbean.

Meeting consumers’ needs includes leveraging technology to provide a simpler buying experience that’s less intimidating and more educational, she said. It also means still including in-store interaction with customers who want a more traditional experience, she added.

Said Stafford: “Ideally, you’re going to be catering to an increasingly divisive type of segmentation of our customers out there and that’s why that concept of meeting them where they are becomes so important. Leveraging the technology that’s out there to enable it and then put this human layer on top, because our business is still a human business, it’s a relationship business, but you can leverage digital tools now to start building the relationship with your buyers even earlier in the process.”

SOURCE: Automotive News


The COVID-19 pandemic greatly accelerated changes in automotive retailing, but it also helped dramatize the need for collaboration between dealers and manufacturers hoping to boost their brands.

Jessica Stafford, senior vice president of Cox Automotive, noted there was a dramatic shift in consumer expectation and perceptions in the first year of the pandemic. The shift compressed what might have been a decade of incremental changes into a single year, noted Stafford during a panel discussion on cooperation among dealers organized by Detroit’s Automotive Press Association. 

Change came quickly

“Consumer expectations evolved 10 years in the first year of Covid,” Stafford said, as dealers and manufacturers raced to install digital sales tools so consumers could shop remotely.

However, brick-and-mortar stores remain a necessary part of automotive retailing, said Stafford. There is continuing need for cooperation between dealers and manufacturers.

“There is no substitute for brick and mortar. We’re still very relevant,” Eric Frehsee, president of the Tamaroff Automotive Group, noted during the panel discussion.

Nonetheless, the environment around automotive retailing has been re-shaped by the pandemic as labor and inventory shortages forced dealers to make sweeping changes in their operations. 

“We have to figure out a better way to connect with our customers,” said Frehsee, who said his group juggled several different strategies as it tried to retain experienced sales personnel, recruit new technicians, and connect with manufacturers to ensure employees were getting the best training on the digital tools.

However, the dealership business model has been around for decades, and it has proven to be resilient as the environment around the automotive business changed during the pandemic. 

Challenges remain for dealers and manufacturers

The pandemic also uncovered some notable weaknesses in the auto industry’s digital transformation, which was expected to appeal to a generation of consumers used to use the internet to order anything online, according to Matt VanDyke, president of Shift Digital.

As dealers have rebuilt their inventories, web traffic on dealer web sites has increased by 20%, VanDyke said. But the number of “leads” generated by the extra traffic have declined by 20%, forcing dealers to adjust their digital strategies. 

VanDyke added early in the pandemic it appeared brands such as Tesla, Rivian and Carvana appeared to have an advantage because of their technology and their direct sales models. 

But the dealer model still works and has some notable advantages in terms of customer service, while the technology of direct sales competitors has not proven to be as effective as many predicted.

While consumers shop extensively online for information before purchasing a vehicle, only a small percentage close the deal without going into the dealership, Van Dyke added. 

Also, the ad campaigns designed by different brands and manufacturers still don’t line up with the day-to-business of dealers. Some 90% of the advertising dollars spent by various brands goes to what VanDyke described as demand creation, while 85% of the customers contact with any automotive brand come after the sale is complete.

“There is a spectrum” between direct sales models and the showroom model. “It’s not one or the other,” Stafford noted.  “You have to meet the customer where they are.”

SOURCE: The Detroit Bureau



Automotive Ventures had hoped to raise as much as $50 million for its new DealerFund, but economic trends left investors more cautious.

Automotive Ventures raised $13 million for a new fund backed by dealerships hoping to invest in novel technology that could help them do their jobs better.

The firm’s DealerFund is much smaller than originally intended, however. When fundraising began more than a year ago, the goal had been to raise as much as $50 million. The fund closed in April.

“The fundraising environment over the past year has softened significantly,” Automotive Ventures CEO Steve Greenfield told Automotive News. “We had one commitment of $5 million pull out and a couple of other softer commitments that failed to materialize.”

Angel and seed-stage startups have been able to raise money, but investors are more risk averse than they were “writing checks only to companies with strong fundamentals, healthy burn rates and solid strategies to preserve” a growth path, PitchBook said in its Q1 2023 US VC Valuations report.

At the same time, Greenfield noted, DealerFund attracted 48 total investors including dealership groups and some single dealerships, representing hundreds of storefronts in all.

The typical participating investor is a mid-size group owner with an average of five to 25 stores, Greenfield said. The average investment size was roughly $250,000.
Jason Tamaroff, vice president of Tamaroff Group in metro Detroit and Eric Frehsee, his cousin and company president, jointly contributed roughly $300,000 to DealerFund after committing a similar amount to a previous Greenfield led venture capital fund, Tamaroff said.

Their participation reflects an attempt to be creative about developing new and useful technology, Tamaroff said.

“Eric and I are third-generation dealers. We’re trying to do things differently,” Tamaroff told Automotive News. “We’re progressive … and we don’t have a $12 million IT budget to come up with crazy new products.”

He explained that Greenfield’s approach to DealerFund is building a community that can help all dealerships in the long run.

“The community helps throw some ideas around, and through the funds, we can find new products,” Tamaroff said. “We can not only try them but we can invest in them and help make them better and participate in the rewards.”

Carter Myers Automotive also invested in DealerFund to help dealerships “stay on the forefront” of evolving technologies and assist the industry in developing new products while addressing changing customer expectations, Carter Myers CEO Liza Borches told Automotive News via email.

“DealerFund has eyes and ears on new ideas that we wanted to be involved in,” Borches said.

Other investors include Dinos Constantine, chief operations officer, Holler-Classic Family of Dealerships; Paul Antony, executive chairman of AutoCanada;Sam Slaughter, a personal investor and former owner of Sellers Auto Group, which sold its two dealerships in March; Bill Feinstein, president, Planet Honda in Union, N.J.; and Clay Cooley, CEO, Clay Cooley Auto Group.

Also investing are Adam Simms and Tom Price, of the former Price Simms Family Dealerships, Greenfield said. Price Simms now operates as Price Family Dealerships, of which Price is chairman, and Simms is CEO of newly formed Simms Automotive Inc.

Some other investors previously disclosed include Rick Ford, executive vice president of operations for the RFJ Auto platform within Sonic Automotive Inc., and Brian Godfrey, president of Pat Milliken Ford in suburban Detroit, who made a personal investment.

Stock market corrections prevented more investors from participating, Greenfield said, particularly when big technology companies saw their valuations tumble.

“All of us kind of look at the Dow Jones as a barometer of our personal wealth and savings,” Greenfield said.

Other factors are revenue drops dealers are facing after a record few years stemming from the coronavirus pandemic and rising interest rates that make both new and used vehicles less affordable.

“On balance we had a really good environment for most of the year,” Greenfield said. “Near the end, some of the big commitments that we had didn’t come through, largely because of some of the general hesitation.”

The fund initially has opted to invest in three portfolio companies: WarrCloud, Go Eve and Kinetic.

SOURCE: Automotive News




Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Our family business was founded by my grandfather, Marvin Tamaroff, in 1969. Today, we’re run by the third generation of our family, and we own and operate six auto dealerships in metro Detroit. We sell new and pre-owned vehicles and operate service, parts and collision facilities. We also own and operate a leasing company and a business that supplies vehicles to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and suppliers.

I serve as president of Tamaroff Motors and Jeffrey Automotive Group,

and my cousin and business partner, Jason Tamaroff, is the vice president.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

I held a variety of roles at my family’s dealerships starting at age 15, but I began working for the company full time when I graduated from Michigan State University in 2007. My first full-time job was as assistant finance manager. About six months later, I became a manager at our family’s Dodge dealership.

About one year in, just as I was finding my groove and building a team, we received a letter from Chrysler informing us that they were going bankrupt, and our Dodge store was one of 789 dealers being terminated. We had 22 days after receiving the letter to unwind a business that had been successful for 27 years. We had to liquidate our inventories and find homes for 55 employees.

It was an incredibly difficult time that was also beneficial in building my foundation as a future leader, as it was an extreme test both personally and professionally. We did our best to shuffle employees to other stores and wind down the business, which ultimately led us to our next challenge: being a fully import dealer in a dominant domestic market. (All our other franchises were imports.)

I knew if we wanted to succeed, we had to be the number one import store in our market, which meant we had to update our outdated facilities, infrastructure, processes and team. Several years later, we achieved that goal, and to this day, are the number one import dealer in our market.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

About two years into my role as used car manager, I thought I had everything down pat. One night, I was busy appraising about 30 pre-owned vehicles. One of them was parked outside of my office window, waiting to be appraised. It was an older car with very high mileage that would typically be worth about $1,000, so I thought it was safe to appraise it from my office window. We ended up taking it on trade. When I went to move it at the end of the night, I noticed the entire passenger side was wrecked, both doors were missing, and every single body panel was damaged. This was the last time I appraised a car without physically going to inspect and test drive it.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We are family-owned and family-operated, currently being run by the third generation. We are not corporate run, there are no levels of upper management, and we know all our employees. Our family has always been trendsetters and never followed what others do. We operate with a high moral compass and value work/life balance.

A prime example: After COVID, we temporarily changed our hours and told our team that if we can do the same business in five days that we previously did in six, and could do it from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in sales instead of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., we’d keep the post-COVID hours so that everyone could enjoy more family and personal time.

We are currently open five days in service and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday in sales, and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Morale, customer satisfaction and business have never been better.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes! We’re constantly looking at bolt-on businesses and other verticals in our area of expertise. With electrification changing the future of the auto industry, our goal is to be on the front lines of electric vehicles. We are currently positioning ourselves to be a leader in the electric vehicle transformation and to meet our customers’ evolving needs. It’s an exciting time to be in the auto industry as things are changing fast.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Without my father, both my grandfathers, and my uncle, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I had the benefit of having all my family members in the automotive business at one point or another. Each had their own unique style and strengths, and since I was often around all of them growing up, I picked up something from each.

My grandfather, Marvin Tamaroff, was my ultimate role model and hero. He, along with my other family members, empowered me and trained me to be the leader I am today.

A turning point in my career was when there was a general manager that I was reporting to that was very loyal to my family and did a terrific job, but constantly shut me down as I was coming up in the business and wanted to try new things. One day, my grandfather told me, “Kid, if you know in your heart you’re doing the right thing, then just do it. If you’re right, everyone wins; if you’re wrong, you’ll learn from your mistakes and you’ll continue to grow until you get it right.” He always had my back and knew before I did that I was cut out for this job and all that came with it.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Our family has always been very charitable. It’s part of our DNA. Giving back is a large part of our Jewish religion and has a lot of personal meaning to us. We’re in process of launching the Tamaroff Foundation because of all the charitable work we’ve done and plan to do in the future. We also started a program at the dealership last year called Donations 4 Denim. On Fridays and Saturdays, we allow the team to wear jeans if they donate $5 to the cause. At the end of the month, the dealership matches every dollar collected. The employees nominate a charity each month, and since we’ve started the program, we’ve donated over $20,000. We’ve also become more involved in our local communities and have plans for continued sponsorships. There are several causes that are near and dear to our hearts, and we believe giving back is a great way to support them.

How do you define a family business? How is a family business different from a regular business?

To me, a family business is owned by families and run by families. It’s generational, like families, and the values that exist within a family are the same values by which the company is guided. We practice what we preach, and we treat our employees like we treat our family.

In that same breath, no family member who works here is treated differently than any other employee. My first year working full time, my parents and grandparents were taking their annual trip to Florida for the New Year. When I asked my uncle — who was then my boss — if I could go, he told me no, I hadn’t accrued any vacation time yet. I was upset that I couldn’t be with my family but looking back, I am glad he treated me like everyone else. That helped me earn the respect of my peers and ultimately prepared me to be a leader.

Non-family businesses are different from the core. We don’t answer to a board of directors or have anyone outside of the family influence our decision making. We do what’s best for the business while keeping our families, employees, and customers in mind at every turn.

In your opinion or experience, what are the unique advantages that family-owned businesses have?

There are many advantages to being a family-owned business. We don’t answer to anyone or have anyone influence our decision making. Our core values drive us forward and we always do what’s best for our employees and our customers. We also get to work with and be surrounded by family. We breed that culture in our dealership and treat our employees — and customers — like our own family.

One of the most unique advantages is we can be true entrepreneurs: We can take risks, try new things, and be innovative. We can accomplish anything we set our minds to without anyone managing our decisions and direction.

What are the unique drawbacks or blind spots that family-owned businesses have?

Loyalty and tenure are a great thing, but at times, can be a challenge too. I am grateful we have a very tenured and loyal staff including many employees who have never held a job outside of our company. With so many team members that haven’t had experience working outside the dealership, we don’t always get new or “outside” perspectives that could help us continue to evolve our business in new ways. We also learned the hard way that promoting based on tenure doesn’t mean it’s always the right person for the position. Promotions need to be based on a variety of factors, but merit needs to be the driving reason. It’s a very delicate balance.

Some would consider simply working with family as a drawback, but our grandfather led with the value that family always came first. No matter what happened at work — an argument, an issue, etc. — when we leave work and sit at the dinner table or celebrate a birthday, anniversary, or holiday together, all of that gets left at the door.

What are some of the common mistakes you have seen family businesses make? What would you recommend to avoid those errors?

As mentioned, I would recommend avoiding things like promoting from within based on tenure and not letting personal relationships get in the way of making the best decisions for the business. It’s a slippery slope and needs to be managed by the right person who can separate those things and ultimately look at what’s best for all parties involved. Performance reviews, coaching, and communication are key to getting the team focused on the same goals and moving in the same direction.

Other common mistakes family businesses make is promoting family for the wrong reasons. We always knew we had to work our way up and whoever was most qualified would have the job at hand. You can have different roles, different responsibilities and take different paths but still be equal partners. My cousin worked outside of the business for several years and gained valuable experience which he brought back when he entered the family business. My path was different, but it worked for me.

A lot of family businesses let money get in the way and are in the business for the wrong reasons. Teaching the next generation the right things, being tough on them in the right ways at the right times, and not handing anything out is ideal if you want to successfully transfer a business to the next generation(s). Most businesses don’t succeed in the second generation, let alone the third. Our goal is to get to the fourth, fifth, and beyond.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders of family businesses to help their employees to thrive?

Take the time to do the little things with your team. Write notes congratulating them on their work anniversaries and take the time to say thank you and good job. Wish them a happy birthday each year. Celebrate wins and buy everyone lunch, socialize, and have fun with your teams.

People want to work for people they like and trust. They want to work for people who care about them. Most CEOs or founders do at their core, but they get so caught up in running the business that they forget to take the time to do the little things that mean so much to team members.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean with a story or example?

A leader is on the frontline, willing to risk it all for his/her team. A leader is someone the team wants in the foxhole with them, have their back and challenge them to live up to their potential. I also think a leader is someone they look up to, trust, and genuinely like to be around. A leader is the tip of the iceberg that is only as strong as his/her foundation and understands that everyone plays a role, everyone has value, and each individual is only as good as the people around them. A leader empowers people and is not insecure but wants to see the people around him/her grow.

Here is our main question. What are the “5 Things You Need To Run A Highly Successful Family Business”? Please share a story or example for each.

Values — values drive a business and give it purpose and meaning. At Tamaroff, we’ve been guided by a single value since our founding: If you do the right things, and you take care of the employees and the customers, the rest will come.

Grit / Perseverance — You’ve got to be able to roll your sleeves up and do whatever it takes to succeed. Especially in a family business, you wear many hats and serve in many roles. Leading by example and be willing to do whatever you’d ask of your people is key. You can’t be afraid to do what’s right, no matter how hard it is, and you can’t be afraid to hear the words ‘no’ as you’re building your business. No matter how far you move forward, there will be things out of your control that push you back, but you must push harder to break down the walls and get through in order to succeed.

Passion — When you do what you love for a living, it’s not work. If you put your heart and soul into your business, the results will reflect that. I love people, I love business, and I love cars. There is no place I’d rather be working than with and for my family. Hopefully, my passion and leadership will one day give me the honor of passing down the business to the next generation.

Communication — Everyone talks about communication, but you must live by that value. You must talk to everyone, not just those at the top. You gain a greater perspective by talking to all your employees, from entry level on up. Talk to your customers, too. Understanding what customers like and dislike makes you better. When you’re running a small business, sometimes, the plans for growing the business can live just inside your own head. Be sure to share your thoughts and goals with the team and get everyone’s input by constantly communicating.

Empathy — Take a step back and realize you’re dealing with fellow human beings, whether customers, employees, manufacturers, suppliers, vendors, etc., and we all need empathy. Understanding people and communicating based on the situation at hand is imperative. We all put our pants on one leg at a time and the strength of relationships and understanding how and when to be empathic results in positive outcomes.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

Warren Buffet. I feel that his values and morals align with our family and our business, and his methods have been tried and true for decades. He’s an innovator, he’s stable- minded, he lives well below his means, he gives back to his community and beyond, and he seems to live a very balanced and successful life. He’s definitely got some tips and secrets I’d love to learn and pass down through the next generations.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

World peace. Life is too short to fight, and the collateral damage isn’t worth it. It’s wishful thinking, but Earth is a large enough place for all people to co-exist.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.



The discounts on cars and trucks that US dealerships traditionally offer over holiday weekends have vanished as tight supply has turbocharged pricing enough to help fuel inflation.

Eric Frehsee, president of family-owned Tamaroff Jeffrey Automotive Group in suburban Detroit, remembers how as a teenager, Labor Day at the dealership meant balloons, barbecue and discounts designed to clear the lot before the next year’s models began arriving in October.

But the business of selling cars has changed so much since the pandemic’s start that Frehsee, now 37, is closing the dealership for the weekend. If a customer wants to buy, the finance manager is watching his iPad.

“We’d always have a three-day blitz, with additional incentives and rebates and special financing,” he said. But now, as manufacturers struggle to produce enough vehicles to feed consumer demand, “incentives have kind of gone away, so there’s no need for that blitz”.

The price of a new vehicle has climbed steadily over the past two and a half years. The average transaction price reached a record-setting $48,182 in July, an increase of 24 per cent since March 2020, according to data from Kelley Blue Book, a brand owned by Cox Automotive.

New and used vehicle prices have helped to drive inflation upward over the past year. The consumer price index in July rose 8.5 per cent over the previous 12 months. The price for new vehicles rose 10.4 per cent in July, while used cars and trucks climbed 6.6 per cent. Together the two categories contributed 0.7 percentage points to the overall increase.

Price growth has been fuelled by what EY-Parthenon chief economist Gregory Daco called a “significant mismatch” between vehicle supply and demand.

Consumer demand for new cars and trucks rebounded more quickly than carmakers expected after Covid-19 forced plants to suspend production for months. The supply of new vehicles tightened further last year when carmakers worldwide confronted a shortage of semiconductors, a key component in systems ranging from power steering to anti-lock brakes.

Inventories at dealerships around the US sit at near-record lows. In July, dealers reported they had between 30 and 40 days of inventory on hand, according to Kelley Blue Book. Inventory has increased 27 per cent from a year earlier, when days’ supply dipped into the 20s.

At Frehsee’s business, inventory has dipped from a 120-day supply three years ago, to 10. His lots used to have about 1,000 vehicles parked on them. Now it is fewer than 100, and cars and trucks are parked horizontally to make the lots appear fuller. Half the 200 vehicles he has arriving this month are already sold.

While the current level of about 1.1mn new vehicles for sale is too lean for the industry, it is unlikely to ever rebound to pre-pandemic levels, when it was more than three times higher, said executive analyst Michelle Krebs at Cox Automotive.

“Automakers and dealers have learned that demand outstripping supply means bigger profit margins and less discounting,” she said.

Incentives in August decreased 51 per cent compared to a year ago, to an average of $877 per vehicle, Deutsche Bank analyst Emmanuel Rosner wrote in a note.

Tamaroff Jeffrey is selling most cars and trucks these days at the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, Frehsee said. The dealership has had record profits. But he worries that sales could decline if changing economic conditions make the vehicles less affordable. For now, many of his customers are trading-in leased vehicles with substantial equity, and those trade-in values work to keep their new vehicle payments in the range they are used to paying.

“Rising gas prices, rising interest rates and the decrease of incentives are leading to much higher car payments, and with the economy being so volatile right now there are definitely concerns about people . . . being able to absorb all these increases,” he said.

The median period a US consumer owns a vehicle is six years. JD Power analyst Tyson Jominy said that means there are still Americans who have not shopped for a car or truck since before the pandemic “and are completely unaware of the conditions at a dealership: All you basically see are asphalt or used cars.”

But even if a recession looms on the horizon, he said, low inventory levels, high pricing and limited discounts mean the industry will be well prepared. The large, eye-catching props that car dealers have traditionally used to capture consumers attention will not be necessary.

“Do not expect any great deals, do not expect the inflatable gorilla to be out there,” Jominy said. “It’s not the same sales environment this Labor Day.”



Marvin M. Tamaroff passed away this summer, in early July, at the age of 95. The auto industry will remember him as a pioneering dealer who helped shape the way cars and trucks are sold. Car enthusiasts, however, will remember him as the automotive world’s preeminent collector of car mascots and hood ornaments.

Tamaroff didn’t just collect these badges and figurines, either. An early member of the Classic Car Club of America, Tamaroff donated a collection of nearly 700 mascots to the CCCA’s museum within the Gilmore complex in Hickory Corners, a few miles north of Kalamazoo, Michigan, where they are on permanent display.

Tamaroff was born in Detroit in 1925. By the time he graduated from high school, World War II was raging and he went straight into the military. He found himself in combat in Europe by the age of 18 and spent six months in a German P.O.W. camp, where he contracted dysentery. After the war he returned to Detroit, where he enrolled in the General Motors Institute, GM’s in-house engineering and management college, known as Kettering University as of 1998.

When GM ran the school, a GMI diploma practically guaranteed you a job with the automaker. Tamaroff graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1949 and interned successfully with the company but, according to Tamaroff, his supervisor made it clear that he would never recommend hiring a Jewish engineer such as Tamaroff.

Still wanting to work in the auto industry, Tamaroff tried his hand at selling new cars, first at a Chrysler-Plymouth dealer and then at a DeSoto-Plymouth shop. He soon decided he could make more money in used cars, so he got a job on the famous row of used car dealerships on Detroit’s Livernois Avenue. He did well enough to start his own used-car shop, Marwood Motor Sales, in 1954, which he operated until 1969. That same year, he opened up his first new car dealership, a Buick franchise on Telegraph Road, in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, among what was then mostly woods and farms. Today, it’s part of a mile-long string of new car dealers on both sides of Telegraph.

Not only did Tamaroff break new ground with the location of his dealership, he was one of first car dealers to expand into owning a group of authorized dealerships for more than one brand. Over the years, that Buick store was joined, at various times, by Opel, Volvo, Mazda, Acura, Nissan, Isuzu, Dodge, Rolls-Royce, DeLorean, and Avanti. Tamaroff opened a Honda car dealership in 1971, one of the first Honda car franchises in the United States, starting with the 600-cc N600.

The Opel dealership is responsible for one of Southfield’s landmarks, “Tammy,” a lifesize replica of an elephant sitting in front of Tamaroff Honda, now painted red, white, and blue. The Honda store is located where the original Buick shop was—and the connection between the two is less strange than you might expect. In the 1960s, Buick dealers carried Opels so they’d have compact cars to sell. Opel advertised itself in the United States as the “Mini Brute,” and featured actual elephants in its ads. Opel has long since departed from these shores, but there’s still a pachyderm in front of a Tamaroff store on Telegraph.

With his success, Marvin Tamaroff started collecting classic cars like prewar Packards, a Hispano-Suiza, and a show-winning 1930 Mercedes. His car-collecting hobby soon spawned an enthusiasm for racing trophies, which extended to a fascination with mascots and hood ornaments.

Today we call them hood ornaments, and associate them with specific vehicle brands, like Rolls-Royce’s Spirit of Ecstasy. In the early days, however, these emblems were called mascots and were as likely to be custom accessories designed to reflect an owner’s personality and tastes as they were to be supplied from the factory. Mascots sprang from the desire to decorate the rather plain radiator cap and ran the gamut from fine art created by famous sculptors to humorous caricatures. Judging from Tamaroff’s extensive collection, there was an entire menagerie of cast and chromed animals, jaguars, greyhounds, plus lots of birds, pelicans, cormorants, and storks. Putting a car on your car might be a bit recursive, but ships and airplanes made frequent appearances.

Tamaroff’s collection of mascots and hood ornaments grew to 1100 items, likely the largest of its kind in the world, including many rare, one-of-a-kind, sculpted pieces. He even was able to acquire a large, dealer-display version of the Spirit of Ecstasy, but, without a doubt, the jewels of his collection are the Lalique mascots.

René-Jules Lalique was a French jeweler who switched to working with enamel, glass, and crystal in the early 20th century, just in time for the automotive age. Starting in 1925, Lalique’s workshop produced a series of 29 glass mascots, many of them in an art-deco style, that became de rigueur on the radiators of upper-crust cars. Six years later, the Great Depression descended. Dropping cash on an ostentatious hood ornament was no longer in style, and the Lalique firm discontinued the mascots.

Today, though, they are highly collectible and very valuable, with auction prices reaching into the tens of thousands of dollars. Tamaroff is said to have amassed two complete sets of the Lalique mascots, one of which he sold at auction in 2000 for $550,000. A number of Lalique mascots are on display at the Gilmore, as is another very valuable mascot: the elephant that Rembrandt Bugatti sculpted for his brother Ettore’s cars.

One admirable thing about Marvin Tamaroff’s collection of mascots is that he didn’t focus only on the elite end of the hobby. The unusual and oddball hood ornaments that are part of the collection show that his passion for history included a sense of whimsy.

Tamaroff initially donated 520 of his mascots to what was then the Gilmore Institute and made further gifts over the years. When the Classic Car Club of America built its own museum in the Gilmore complex, the collection was put on display there. After recent renovations to the CCCA museum, including a new display devoted to the art of the automobile, some of the Tamaroff collection is now on display in the adjacent Hickory Corners train depot, along with the Owen Morton collection of automotive badges.

Any excuse is worth a visit to the Gilmore, but if you can’t make it to central Michigan, the CCCA has put the entire collection online where you can view each item individually.