A Conversation with Steve Taylor

The Story of Taylor Motor Company and their Journey to Becoming America’s Car-Mart

In March 2020, Taylor Motor Company became part of America’s Car-Mart. Taylor Motor had three Auto Credit of Southern Illinois branded dealerships in Benton, Marion and Mount Vernon.

Steve Taylor at Taylor Motors
Steve Taylor at Taylor Motors

Steve Taylor, Director of Acquisitions at Car-Mart, was the third-generation family member to run the business. In 1931, Steve’s grandfather, Carmen, started Taylor Motor Company as a Ford dealership in Benton. Starting in 1965, Steve’s dad, after college and a stint in the Navy, ran the operation for 35 years.

“My grandfather and dad, and all our employees, have worked hard for 89 years to make it the company it is today,” says Steve, who grew up in the car business where he always had a summer job – mowing grass, washing cars and balancing the cash register at the end of day.

Steve reminisces about his company, and why they’re thrilled to be a part of Car-Mart.

Taylor Motor Company officially joins Car-Mart on March 6, 2020

“It was full-blown COVID crisis two weeks after we joined Car-Mart,” recalls Steve. “I spent a lot of time on management calls at the most stressful time ever. I never heard the company stress about sales or profits. They stressed about their associates and all they could do to help them, so no associate was adversely affected financially.

“That’s all I need to know about a company is how they handle a crisis. There was no playbook for COVID, and I give Car-Mart an A+,” he says.

“Everyone at Car-Mart has been so nice and so welcoming. That’s been huge. And it’s great to have the resources – HR, Legal, a good benefits package,” continues Steve. “Everyone at Car-Mart has made us feel part of the team, and I can’t thank everyone enough.”

Steve recently talked about his company – its growth and evolution – and why now being a part of Car-Mart is a great opportunity for Taylor Motor and its employees.

On Steve’s best memories at Taylor Motor Company:

“One of my best memories was seeing my dad receive the President’s Award from Ford Motor Company. That’s the highest honor for a dealer.

We were also named Illinois Quality Dealer of the Year in 2018. That was a great accomplishment for our team.”

On making the decision to become a part of Car-Mart:

“Over the past several years, I carefully assessed the business. I determined I didn’t want to borrow more money for expansion. I had been following Car-Mart’s quarterly reports and saw that the two companies were similar – in similar towns, collections, metrics, same kind of cars. It seemed like a logical fit. And I wanted to reduce my risk.

Our team is really good at what we do, and I wanted to give them a future with more career opportunities. I trusted Jeff Williams [Car-Mart CEO] and his leadership team. I respected the vision Jeff has for Car-Mart.

… I also learned about Car-Mart’s mission, vision and values. Car-Mart is serious about this. We had our own informal code that helped people want to stay and create the culture – ‘be nice, do good, have fun and sell cars.’ That’s the environment we created for customers and employees.

It’s cool that we’ve been able to join the only publicly traded buy here pay here in the U.S. The end to Taylor Motor is sad, but what my team can continue to do going forward is exciting. There’s a better future with Car-Mart.”

On learnings from his dad:

“I learned a lot about the car business from my dad. He used to tell me that the secret to the longevity of business is ‘take care of your staff and they’ll help you take care of your customers.’

Other learnings included that sometimes you have to spend money to keep a customer.  Maybe you don’t legally have to do it, but it’s the right thing to do. Also, reinvest your profits in your business to keep it competitive. And, you can’t demand that people sell cars, you can only make sure they are doing the things that normally lead to a car sale.

And, now today, when I think about a business decision, I ask myself, ‘what would my dad do?’ He always kept a calm head and wouldn’t over-react. In fact, my dad is still my trusted business advisor.”

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