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.”