The Michigan Feud That Caused The Guinness Book To Cancel A World Record
A Michigan man held the world record for selling the most cars in a year. And then another Michigan man beat it. Or did he?
The fabled story of Joe Girard (how's that for a cool name, but he's no relation) started back in the 1930s when he was growing up poor, the son of a Sicilian immigrant on the east side of Detroit.
To help his parents make ends meet, Joe learned how to hustle, including selling shoe shines in a local bar, delivering newspapers and winning cases of Pepsi, and then selling them at a discount to his schoolmates.
Eventually Joe convinced a car dealer to give him a shot selling cars. He was SO good at it, that they fired him because the other salesmen complained.
He eventually settled in a Chevy dealership in what was then East Detroit (now Eastpointe), where Joe hustled his way to selling 1425 cars in a single year, 1973.
The Guinness Book Of World Records eventually recognized that number as the world record for car sales in a year, making the Joe the best car salesman of all time.
Joe parlayed that record to a side hustle as a sales consultant, writing books on the subject like "How To Sell Anything To Anybody", and also giving corporate talks on salesmanship to such esteemed clients as Hewlett-Packard and General Motors.
Things were all well and good for Joe, as he eventually retired to Grosse Pointe Shores, and faded from public life.
2017. That's when Ali Reda, an equally hustling salesman at Les Stanford Chevrolet in Dearborn, seemed to beat Joe's record, by selling 1530 new cars in a single year.
Reda has a similar rags to riches story, growing up one of seven children, who put himself through Community College by playing basketball.
The dealership planned a by celebration for Ali beating the record, and they wanted to honor Joe Girard by having him be a part of it.
But Joe, now 89, wanted none of it. He threatened to send an accountant to Les Stanford to prove Ali didn't set a new record, and then he threatened to sue.
Even though General Motors verified Ali's record, Joe didn't believe them.
"If somebody beat my record, honestly, I would be proud of that person," Girard told the Detroit Free Press at the time. "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."
Whoa! So much for graciously accepting a new record.
Gary Stanford, whose father was the original founder of the dealership where Reda works said, "It's very official, trust me. 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."
The battle over whether Reda set a new record became so contentious, the people at the Guinness Book of World Records decided the legal challenges Girard kept threatening Reda with wasn't worth the trouble.
In his lawsuit, Girard said Reda's claim to the record had caused him emotional pain and loss of book sales.
In a statement to Automotive News, a Guinness spokesperson wrote: "The organization requires a clear and independent analysis of the competition, either through market analysis or from a global institution who monitors sales in the industry in order to confirm a record holder in this category. Following extensive research, it appears that no such institution exists, and market research would be deemed insufficient according to our guidelines."
Reda offered to pay for an another independent verification, but Guinness balked, and retired the category.
"He's an absolute legend in the industry. Your whole career, you're chasing his name. So now his reaction, well, it's kind of a gut shot," Reda told the Detroit Free Press in 2018. "I had a completely different image of what this would look like. It's a shame Joe just couldn't accept, congratulate and embrace all of this."
Girard, died shortly after the Guinness Book pulled the category. He was 90 years old.
The moral of the story? Despite the bitter end, no one sells cars better than born and raised Michiganders!!
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