Joe Girard, the World's Greatest Car Salesman, Is Dead

Illustration for article titled Joe Girard, the Worlds Greatest Car Salesman, Is Dead
Photo: Joe Girard

Joe Girard, who held the Guinness world record for most cars sold in a calendar year, is dead at 90. Girard sold 1,425 cars in 1973, mostly Chevys, and 13,001 cars throughout his career. He also, annually, mailed a copy of his W-2 to a former boss who’d fired him, attaching a note that read, “You fired the wrong guy.”


That didn’t stop after his former boss died. Instead, Girard took it to his grave, per this great Automotive News profile from a few years ago.

After his old boss died, Girard says he even took a W-2 to the cemetery and buried it atop the man’s casket.


Girard, a high school dropout, grew up in Detroit, and was penniless, jobless and had two kids and wife to support when he walked into a Chevy dealership and begged for a job in January 1963, sparking his career. He went on to become the top car salesman in the world for 11 years straight, from 1966 to 1977.

From the Auto News profile:

Other than “Good morning,” he refused to talk to co-workers. He ate lunch at his desk so he could dedicate every minute to selling.

All that intensity took a toll, however.

But after Christmas of 1977, Girard called it quits. He had topped 13,000 in sales — 13 is his lucky number — and he no longer could take the stress of the job. He had been sweating and shaking at work; he went to a doctor, who told him to quit or die.


Girard also, perhaps unsurprisingly, is the kind of guy who speaks in third-person.

Girard ... boils his achievements down to spark — spark to overcome his humble beginnings in the city’s Depression-era slums, the words of an abusive father and the failure of a home construction business.

“This is what made Joe Girard,” said Girard. “Every day was a challenge. The more people can use things that aren’t good as an advantage toward their life, they will do better.”


This is legendary stuff, but about a year ago, a salesman in Michigan emerged to say that he had beaten Girard’s single-year record. Ali Reda said he sold 1,582 cars in 2017, besting Girard by 157. Girard promptly sued and demanded proof, as he had beaten back more than a few such claims over the years.

Guinness World Records, meanwhile, said that it would keep Girard as the sales king, because Reda’s claim was supported by General Motors and there was no third-party proof. On Guinness’s website, however, that record is now missing, apparently having been disappeared sometime over the summer. You can still see it here, but I emailed Guinness to see what’s up and will update this post if they get back.


At any rate, Reda said credit for his own sales figures was in large part due to Girard, having read Girard’s book. Its title is How to Sell Anybody Anything.

The Detroit Free Press reported today that he died from after falling backwards down some steps in his home in Grosse Point Shores, Michigan, outside of Detroit. RIP Joe Girard.


Update: Guinness got back to me, and confirmed the deletion, saying that they could find no independent way of tracking salesman’s claims. Here’s a spokeswoman’s statement.

I can confirm Guinness World Records no longer monitors a record for Most cars sold by a salesman in a year.

Due to the nature of the record title, Guinness World Records is unable to prove this record without a clear and independent analysis of the competition being undertaken either through market research or from a global institution.

After extensive research, it appears that no such institution exists, and market research would be deemed insufficient according to our guidelines.

Therefore, the title has been rested as we are unable to be supplied with sufficient evidence to validate any claim. 

News Editor at Jalopnik. 2008 Honda Fit Sport.

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He also, annually, mailed a copy of his W-2 to a former boss who’d fired him, attaching a note that read, “You fired the wrong guy.”

I bet by the third year that boss knew he really made the right choice. After that he just threw them in the trash without reading.