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Terry Lee Honda
“Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with many other dealers, and with each encounter, I’ve sensed an immediate kinship between us because we know what it takes to be successful.”
“I love the car business as much – or more today – as I did at age 21,” nominee Lee said. “Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with many other dealers, and with each encounter, I’ve sensed an immediate kinship between us because we know what it takes to be successful.”
Lee is a 1969 graduate of Arlington High School in Indianapolis, Indiana, and he attended Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). From an early age, he knew he had a gift for sales. “Like most kids, I delivered newspapers, but it wasn’t long before I put my salesmanship to work peddling things like pieces of marble and re-grooved tires door-to-door,” he remembered. “I even offered babysitting services to my mother’s friends.”
He made enough money from his enterprises to leave home at the age of 17 and started his career right after high school. “I landed a job at a finance company as an outside loan collector,” Lee said. “Of course, we usually think of the ‘repo man’ as an imposing figure. But I was a guy who wrestled in the 105-pound weight class in high school, so I had to rely on my power of persuasion to excel in that position.”
And he did. After several promotions, he was interacting with car dealers and was also buying and selling cars as a side job. “These early experiences helped me to understand that the automobile business was my true calling,” Lee said.
He was hired as finance manager for Tom Wood Pontiac Mazda in Indianapolis in 1972 and then general manager at Lockhart Cadillac, also in Indianapolis, in 1980. His previous employer, Tom Wood, invited Lee to invest in another dealership and after 10 years working there, he bought his own – Terry Lee Chevrolet in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1995. “Despite the ‘over-dealered’ condition of the Chevy market in Cincinnati, we became a sales leader in a just a few years, surpassing more than two dozen established competitors,” he said.
In 2008, Lee saw new opportunities in Indianapolis and decided the timing was right to sell the Cincinnati dealership. His first store was Terry Lee Honda in Avon, which continues to grow in sales. He has also built a commercial development, Terry Lee Crossing in Noblesville, which is home to his Hyundai franchise.
“It’s not an easy road when you consider the long hours, intense pressure and numerous challenges we all face daily, but I think we also feel it is worth it,” Lee said. “To have a vision and to see it come to life, while having such a profound impact on the people we hire, the relationships we build and the customers we serve, is very gratifying.” And he is proud that Terry Lee Honda was recently named by Automotive News and The Indianapolis Star as top places to work. “These awards are most important to me because they reflect the positive environment in my company,” he said.
And that positive energy extends to the community at large. For the past four years, Lee has sponsored closed captioning for the deaf and hearing impaired on his local affiliate television stations. He also supports Samantha’s House in Indianapolis, a group that aids the disabled and injured, as well as many local charities and sporting events.
Lee was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Martin Murphy, executive vice president of the Automobile Dealers Association of Indiana.