Many sensible folks look at the automobile business and think, “I can do that and make lots of money.”
While that certainly can be true, not everyone has the business acumen, the personal backbone or the willingness to risk so much of their time, their own money and their supporters’ money, especially during a tumultuous economic period.
Nevertheless, in 2008, Jim and Shanon Card did all of that. Jim’s longstanding love affair with the automobile business had created an itch that had to be scratched. He could no longer work for others while sensing that he could sell cars and trucks, make people happy and successfully support his family doing something he was passionate about. A supportive spouse certainly helped.
Anyone starting a new business knows the hurdles: regulations, licenses, taxes, compliance steps and capital. Selling cars is a very capital intensive business. There’s a reason car dealers need lots of inventory. It’s because we all have different taste. Satisfying those divergent tastes requires knowledge and patience, virtues that Jim Card was confident he had plenty of.
Unfortunately for Jim and Shanon, 2008 was also the beginning of the housing meltdown, the Wall Street collapse and the recession that rocked the American economy. General Motors and Chrysler had to be bailed out by Joe and Jane Taxpayer. Ford mortgaged its own brand and logos for capital. Pontiac, Saturn, Saab, Hummer and Plymouth ceased being brands. New car sales plummeted almost 40 percent.
Yet Jim and Shanon steadfastly held to their plan. Their aim was to sell quality cars to their friends and neighbors and people who would soon be one or the other. With America’s used car market triple the annual volume of the new car market, their plan may have been perfect for the time — driver’s needed honest, real-value cars that they could afford. It probably didn’t feel like it at the time, but that period might have been the foundation in the community that helped Card Enterprises become the success that it is today. That, and Jim and Shanon’s commitment to their family business.