Hendrick Automotive Group, headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., was founded in 1976 by Rick Hendrick. Hendrick serves as Chairman of Hendrick Automotive Group, Hendrick Companies LLC, and Hendrick Motorsports.
Rick Hendrick's Start in the Automobile Business
Mr. Hendrick grew up on a farm near the rural cross-roads community of Warrenton, N.C., which straddles the central North Carolina/Virginia line. His love for automobiles and racing started while a boy on the farm, where he worked on farm equipment with his father and brother and went to races in the back of a pickup truck.
At 14, he rebuilt a 1931 Chevrolet and installed a self-built V-8 engine, going on to win drag races and setting records at a local track. By age 16, Mr. Hendrick was buying, repairing, and reselling used cars he purchased with bank loans arranged with the help of his mother, who worked as a bank teller.
After high school Mr. Hendrick studied engineering at North Carolina State University and continued to repair and resell cars. After college, Mr. Hendrick was offered a management position with the newly opened International Sports Car Center in Raleigh. He was so successful that, in 1973, he was appointed general sales manager of a BMW/Mercedes dealership owned by the same group. He was only 23 years old. Shortly afterward, he persuaded the ownership group to add a Honda franchise.
Hendrick Automotive Is Born
In 1975, Mr. Hendrick received his first opportunity to own a dealership, when he was asked by Chevrolet to take over a small dealership in the farming town of Bennettsville, S.C., about two hours southeast of Charlotte. Only 25 years old, Mr. Hendrick became the youngest Chevrolet dealer in the country. He increased the dealership's annual sales from 200 to 1,200 vehicles a year, making it the most profitable dealership of its size in the zone.
Because of his tremendous success, in 1978 the Chevrolet Zone Office backed him in a competition to buy City Chevrolet, a large and respected dealership in Charlotte. In his first year of management, Mr. Hendrick increased sales by $10 million and established City Chevrolet as the No. 1 volume Chevrolet dealership in the Carolina's. City Chevrolet would become Mr. Hendrick's flagship dealership. It would also become a training ground for many key players in the growth of his operations; more than 20 future Hendrick dealership general managers came from the ranks of City Chevrolet.
Moving Into New Markets
In 1979, Honda was experiencing problems in the Columbia, S.C., market. Toyota had two stand-alone dealerships in the area, and Honda's sole dealer was operating out of a tire store. Despite warnings from the dealership's previous owner that he risked financial disaster, Mr. Hendrick built the first free-standing Honda dealership in South Carolina. The dealership was a showcase for Honda, which promoted it throughout the eastern United States, and served as a model for eight other Honda dealerships.
From 1980 through 1983, Mr. Hendrick added franchises representing BMW, Volvo, Nissan, Peugeot, Isuzu, Mercedes, Toyota, Volkswagen, Porsche and Audi. He was building a reputation in the industry for management expertise and was approached to take over troubled or marginal dealerships, leading to his expansion into California.
In 1985, Mr. Hendrick became the first General Motors dealer allowed to own multiple dealerships when the manufacturer recruited him to build and manage a Chevrolet dealership near Tampa, Fla. At the same time, Chevrolet, under its Dealer Improvement Program, approached Mr. Hendrick to take over a struggling multiple-line dealership in Chapel Hill, N.C. It was Mr. Hendrick's largest and most complex renovation to date. In 1985, the dealership reopened as Performance Chevrolet/BMW/Subaru. Porsche and Acura have since been added to the vehicle mix.
Rapid Growth and Expansion
The company's expansion pace quickened from 1986 through 1992, when the number of dealerships grew to 41.
From those humble beginnings in 1975 to current day, Hendrick Automotive Group has grown to operate more than 143 automotive franchises throughout the United States.