McGrath, who earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls in 1980, always knew he wanted to carve out a career in the retail automotive industry. His father, H.B., founded the family’s first dealership in Wisconsin in 1952.
“My parents relocated and bought the Iowa store the year I was born, so I was quite literally born into the car business,” he said. “I started at 11 years old emptying trash, mopping the floor and performing other tasks.”
After college, McGrath worked on the sales floor at Bruce McGrath Pontiac, the family dealership, which was owned by his older brother, Bruce. He learned all aspects of the business and moved up the ranks before investing in – and eventually purchasing – a store of his own in Iowa City, Iowa, in 1987, which was a lifechanging moment for him.
In 1991, McGrath partnered with Bruce and Bruce’s son, Mike, to open Pat McGrath Chevyland in Cedar Rapids and to launch their current auto group, the McGrath Family of Dealerships. Today, the group encompasses 11 dealership locations in eastern Iowa and represents new-car brands Buick, Cadillac, Chrysler, Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford, GMC, Hyundai, Jeep, Kia, Volkswagen and Ram.
As a lifelong resident of Cedar Rapids, McGrath has a strong connection to his community. He has created a donor-driven fund at the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation, which promotes charitable giving and connects donors to the causes they care about. “We have donated more than $700,000 to the community through the foundation to support organizations in need,” he said.
McGrath was also a supporter of the University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center in Iowa City. “I am a two-time melanoma cancer survivor,” he said. “I believe I was able to share my experiences and bring a candid, challenging perspective to help their process and vision.”
In addition, he is a benefactor of the American Cancer Society and has participated in fundraising events, including Chevrolet’s #WeDriveFor social media initiative, which raises money for American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.
McGrath also heeds the call of community on a local level. After a devastating derecho hit his area in 2020 damaging homes and leveling countless trees, he donated to Matthew 25, an organization that helps low-income and uninsured residents repair their homes.
“We donated $50,000 to Matthew 25 to help repair houses and provided more than 300 trees to employees who were impacted by this terrible storm to plant in their yards,” he said.
McGrath added, “The most rewarding aspect of my automotive career has been the ability to change people’s lives for the better, whether it’s our family, employees or members of the community. That is more rewarding than anything monetarily.”
McGrath was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Bruce Anderson, president of the Iowa Automobile Dealers Association. He and his wife, Mary Kay, have three children.