By Nick Zulovich, Editor
Subprime Auto Finance News
ATLANTA - A ceremony during the NABD East Coast Conference to enshrine the newest member of the alliance's Hall of Fame turned back the clock on the buy-here, pay-here industry to a time of handshake contracts and Southern hospitality.
The National Alliance of Buy-Here, Pay-Here Dealers posthumously welcomed Martin Ingram to its Hall of Fame. Ingram started in the business back in 1958, establishing what now is Auto City, a BHPH company with three locations in Dallas.
Alliance executive Ingram Walters introduced the new Hall of Famer, who died on Sept. 9, 2010.
"When Martin Ingram asked how you were doing, he cared about the answer," Walters said. "I thought that said a lot. He cared about the answer. It wasn't just what he did, it was who he was. A lot of people ask how you're doing and they don't listen to the answer. Martin Ingram, when he asked how you were doing, he cared about the answer. How lucky this business is to have had him out on the road in front of us."
Walters told the crowd gathered at the Gateway Center in Atlanta that another dealer said Marvin Ingram "had one of the best hearts that ever beat in the buy-here, pay-here industry."
Walters went on to say, "The best asset he left all of his family is also the best asset he left all of us — being a good example of a life well lived. An important man like Martin Ingram is like a tall tree. It's hard to measure them fully until they fall. Seeing Martin Ingram's strengths as a leader, as a man and an example are even more impressive.
"We have another saying here in the South that you can tell a lot about a tree by looking at its fruit," Walters added. "We're all reflections of the ones that come before us, and Blake Ingram is a chip off the old block. Blake Ingram plays by the rules. He believes in making money but also believes in making a difference. He's ultra-successful but he's also ultra-involved in the state association, helping all of the dealers in Texas."
Blake Ingram is the youngest of Martin Ingram's three children. He now oversees the BHPH operation and traveled from the Lone Star State to accept the Hall of Fame honor on behalf of his father.
Ingram shared how his father got into the business, spotting a used Ford in someone's yard while traveling home from his job. Noticing how low the asking price was, Blake Ingram said he father believed that after a little maintenance that he could resell the vehicle for a profit.
"Dad wanted to be a car dealer from a very early age, but his parents wouldn't let him," Ingram said. "They wanted him to do something more respectable. It turns out that a used-car dealer in the 1950s had a bad reputation."
But after reselling that used Ford, Martin Ingram knew what his career was going to be. In 1958, he started the company that became Auto City.
"It was a terribly brave thing to do," Blake Ingram said. "You quit your job. You have really no savings. He had a new wife, a new baby and a new mortgage, but he had the confidence he could do it."
Ingram continued the story with, "I can imagine that first conversation with my mother. ‘Jackie, I quit my job. I'm going to become a car dealer.' And then the best part: ‘I'm going to sell them a car and they're going to promise to pay me back.' I'll bet the silence was deafening."
"Luckily she must have had confidence in him too, because if she didn't I honestly probably wouldn't be here," Ingram added.
The son insisted his father possessed several important attributes that made him successful in the BHPH business. Along with confidence, Ingram indicated his father also had persistence, trust and a love for what he was doing.
"In 1958, you decide to become a buy-here, pay-here dealer, that requires a certain level of confidence," Ingram said. "The buy-here, pay-here business is not for the timid. Anybody you ask to describe my father, he would not say he was timid.
"People really liked and trusted my dad. He had an amazing gift. Those friendships served him very well," Ingram continued. "His customers trusted him as well. With dad, you didn't need legal documents. A handshake was all you really needed.
"Life is hard," Ingram went on to say. "Sometimes there are things that just don't go your way. You make mistakes. If you're not making any mistakes, you're not trying hard enough. My father was no different, but he was not a give-up kind of guy.
"Dad loved cars," Ingram added. "He would describe cars for hours on end and tell you about what kind of fins this one had and what kind of motor this one had. He loved cars. I truly believe you can make money in the car business. But if you want to be great, you must love what you do and he did."
Ingram thanked Walters and NABD founder Ken Shilson for adding his father to the Hall of Fame, which also includes the late James DeVoe Sr. and Ed Bass who were enshrined back in May.
"It's a very large honor for me to accept this award on my dad's behalf. I hope you enjoyed hearing about him as much as I enjoyed telling you. I know if he was here, you would like him," Ingram said.