Auto Dealers Face Full Lots, Phased Out Cars

The National Auto Dealer's Association expects about 900 dealerships to close this year.

Some dealers face the prospect of lots full of phased out cars — and the huge debts they incurred to buy those cars to begin with.

Guests:

Mike Beattie, manager of Dunlop Pontiac in Bay City, Mich.

John Stoll, reporter for the Wall Street Journal

Cal Worthington, owner of The Worthington Dealership Group

Cal Finds Roughest Road In 50 Years Of Car Sales

Private Plane i i

At 88, Cal Worthington still enjoys piloting his private jet. Carrie Kahn/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Carrie Kahn/NPR
Private Plane

At 88, Cal Worthington still enjoys piloting his private jet.

Carrie Kahn/NPR
Cal With Shamu
Cal Worthington Archives

Cal has performed in advertisements with dozens of different animals over the years. You can see additional photos and videos on his Web site.

For 50 years, California cowboy Cal Worthington has been selling cars with a jingle that simply won't leave people's heads.

"If you need a better car, go see Cal. For the best deal by far, go see Cal. If you want your payments low, if you want to save some dough, go see Cal, go see Cal, go see Cal."

And so on. His trademark was appearing with his "dog," Spot — not a canine, but some exotic animal. (Watch a version with an Orca here, and a tiger here.)

The stubbornly infectious marketing approach helped turn Worthington into one of the top auto dealers in the United States. Over the years, he became a folk hero of sorts. At 88, he's still selling cars, but the business sure isn't what it used to be, he says.

"This is absolutely, without a doubt, the worst time I've ever seen in the car business," Worthington laments from his 24,000 acre ranch, where he still often shoots four commercials a day.

As Worthington leads a tour of his home recording studio, he explains why, despite discouraging sales, he has no plans to give up the business anytime soon.

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