From that first used car sold at the Sinclair station, there began an amazing chronicle of successes for Jim Moran in the automobile industry. Within two years after returning to Chicago after serving in World War II, Jim purchased his first used car lot. By 1946, Jim had established a Hudson dealership in Chicago Heights, Illinois. His success there brought him a new opportunity near downtown Chicago. He called it Courtesy Motors. It became the largest in sales volume in one year. He remained with Hudson for 9 years. In 1955, he launched Courtesy Ford, and within 30 days it became the world's largest Ford dealership. Jim's desire for innovation and customer satisfaction led him to become the first television sponsor to appear in his own commercials and first television advertiser in the nation to show an actual car on television and then sell it himself - quite an accomplishment in 1948. He was also the first to equip his cars with seat belts, at no charge to the customer. Even with the responsibilities of owning the dealership, for years Jim personally sold more than 1,800 cars annually - an extraordinary average of five cars every day of the year! Jim even established the first "on the spot" new car delivery system that allowed customers to drive away in their new cars within 30 minutes of the purchase.
Jim Moran started reconditioning cars in the late 1940s and became the first dealer to offer a "100% guaranteed" used car covered by a clear, understandable written warranty. After the Courtesy Conditioning Assembly Line at Courtesy Motors opened in 1949, they reconditioned as many as 800 cars a month. Each car would move along an assembly line for individual steps in the reconditioning process - brakes, generators, starters, motor tune-up, tires, batteries and a final inspection - before going to the lot for sale. The assembly was housed in a huge 60,000 square foot building and had 71 people working in it.
His sales topped several million dollars by the time he turned 30 and with a knack for showmanship, his commercials made him a celebrity throughout the Chicago area where he was recognized as TV's "Jim Moran the Courtesy Man." He sponsored three live shows a week, handling the master of ceremony duties and all the live commercials himself. Jim was the first to present a full-length movie on television in 1949, even though the critics said nobody would watch. "The Courtesy Hour" and "Barn Dance" became big hits and received television's renowned Emmy Awards for every year they were on TV. His weekly variety shows provided another outlet for the sleek new and reconditioned cars he was selling at Courtesy Motors.
At age 46, Jim was diagnosed with cancer and told he had six months to a year to live. Jim Moran "retired" to Florida and fought a difficult battle with the disease. Jim luckily beat the 10% chance he was given to survive! After beating the cancer, he was back to his lifelong passion of selling cars. Jim soon opened Jim Moran's Pontiac City in Homestead in 1968. In 1970, Jim was awarded the franchise for the Pontiac dealership in Hollywood, which became JM Pontiac and for the next 20 years was the largest Pontiac dealership in the world.
Jim came to a crossroads that would change his life when he was approached by Toyota Motor Sales with the possibility of distributing Toyotas. He was impressed with the quality after his first test-drive in a Corona RT-52 Coupe in early 1968. At a preliminary meeting with the Executive Vice President of Toyota Motor Sales, Seisi Kato, in Miami, Mr. Kato questioned Jim, asking, "What would you do, Moran-san, if I shipped you 10,000 cars?" To this question he replied instinctively, "I'd sell them." On October 26, 1968, during his first visit to Japan, Jim Moran was awarded the franchise to distribute Toyotas, and Southeast Toyota Distributors LLC (SET) was born. The company started with just 11 associates in offices on the fourth floor of a bank building in Pompano Beach. In 1969, a holding company, Lisa Enterprises, was formed. In 1969, Southeast Toyota had just 42 dealers in the five-state region. With Moran's determination to propel the distributorship forward, by 1970 SET had grown to 71 dealers and registered a sharp increase in sales in the first quarter, achieving an import market penetration of 8.1% and bringing sales expectations to 20,000 Toyotas for the year. Now SET sells significantly more than that in just one month.
With the best product in the world to sell, and excellent marketing, Jim Moran helped the dealers continually establish new records. In 1982, Jim celebrated with his associates when SET and the then 151 dealers sold its 1 millionth Toyota, and they immediately began working toward the next goal. By 1990, 2 million Toyotas had been sold; by 1995, 3 million Toyotas had been sold; in 2000, 4 million Toyotas had been sold; in 2003, 5 million Toyotas had been sold; and in 2006, 6 million Toyotas had been sold by 167 dealers in the five southeastern states.
As the business grew, so did the need to better serve SET's dealers. In 1969, SET revolutionized the automobile industry with the introduction of the 33-ASR Teletype, the first computer network to link dealers with the distributorship. Five years later, the CARNETT Computer Center (more recently known as ITS) building was dedicated in Jacksonville. In 1978, TLC (Tender Loving Care) Corporation was established to offer extended service contracts to SET customers. JM&A Group (JM&A), which first began as TLC, is now one of the largest independent insurance and extended warranty group of companies in the country. With 30 years of experience, JM&A's inter-related companies provide a variety of finance and insurance (F&I) products and services to automotive dealers nationwide representing virtually all manufacturer makes and models. JM&A Group (www.jmagroup.com) offers its customers quality finance and insurance retail products and systems to help sell more vehicles and maximize profitability on vehicle sales and after-sale opportunities, leading to increased financial stability and maximum performance. Products and services include: new and used vehicle protection plans, used vehicle certification programs, pre-paid maintenance plans, GAP protection and F&I training for sales, service departments and used car operations and consulting services.
In 1981, World Omni Financial Corp. (WOFC) (www.worldomni.com) was formed and became the first captive automotive finance company for an import car company. World Omni provides a broad range of financial products and services to consumers, dealers, and lenders. It has maintained its Standard & Poor's STRONG auto servicer rating since 2004. WOFC's primary businesses include Southeast Toyota Finance (www.southeasttoyotafinance.com), which offers automotive financial products and services to SET dealerships; CenterOne Financial Services LLC (www.centeronefinancial.com), a provider of innovative third-party servicing solutions designed to improve the performance of client portfolios; DataScan Technologies LLC (www.datascantech.com), a global leader in wholesale floorplan accounting and risk management systems and services; DataScan Field Services LLC (www.datascanfieldservices.com), the largest floorplan audit and vehicle inspection company in the industry; and Monetrics Inc. (www.monetrics.com), a leader in automated risk decisioning software and analytics. WOFC operates two full-scale, state-of-the-art customer service centers in Mobile, Ala. and St. Louis, Mo. DataScan Field Services has offices in Alpharetta, Ga.; Solon, Ohio; Toronto, Ontario; and Montreal, Quebec.
The early years saw record-breaking sales at SET that propelled Toyota in 1975 above Volkswagen for the first time in the United States and the creation of the first Cash Bash (an SET innovation). Jim Moran initiated the "Toyotathon" which is now a national Toyota program. The combination of Jim's innovative leadership, his basic drive to succeed and talents of the many people he worked with over the years led Southeast Toyota Distributors to its #1 place in retail sales, fleet sales, owner satisfaction, parts sales and dealer profits in the U.S. Ranked #1 in the National Automobile Dealers Association's attitude study, SET is the largest franchised distributor of Toyota cars, trucks and vans in the world. SET supplies new vehicles, parts and accessories to more than 160 outstanding independent Toyota dealers in the 5 southeastern states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia and North and South Carolina. Although the southeastern states are home to more than 15% of the nation's population, SET dealers sell approximately 20% or one in every five Toyotas sold in the entire country.
SET Vehicle Processing, with facilities in Jacksonville, Fla., and Commerce, Ga., installs accessories on vehicles and prepares them for shipment to dealers. SET Parts Supply and Distribution in Jacksonville ships more than $2.6 million in parts per day to SET dealerships. Located inside a facility the size of 8 football fields, SET Parts Supply and Distribution has the best supply record of all Toyota regions or distributors.
In July 2000, SET founded Southeast Transportation Systems, Inc. (STS). An automotive transportation company, STS transports Toyotas processed in Jacksonville and Commerce to dealers throughout the Southeast.
The Toyota tradition continues with the growth of Lexus, a luxury car born from a discussion between Dr. S. Toyoda and Jim Moran in 1984. JM Lexus (www.jm-lexus.com ), which was established in 1989 in Margate, Fla., quickly became the #1 Lexus dealership in the United States. JM Lexus is now the #1 Lexus dealership in the world generating the highest sales volume among more than 190 Lexus dealerships. In 2007, the dealership earned the Elite of Lexus distinction for the 11th consecutive year. Also in 2007, the JM Lexus Certified Pre-Owned Superstore opened in Coconut Creek, Fla.
Also in 2007, SET opened the Southeast Toyota Accessory Center in Norcross, Ga. to offer local Toyota dealers greater flexibility in satisfying customer personalization requests closer to the point of sale. SET also opened a Technical Training Center at its Westlake Vehicle Processing facility in Jacksonville, Fla., one of the largest automotive training and technical support facilities in the nation. In 2008, Southeast Transportation Systems opened a new maintenance facility at Westlake to accommodate STS's growth and fleet maintenance requirements.
Today, JM Family continues to be a leader in the automotive industry as a professionally-managed, privately-held company guided by the culture, business philosophy and philanthropic legacy of Jim Moran. Headquartered in Deerfield Beach, Fla., the company has approximately 3,800 associates throughout the U.S. and Canada in 11 major locations. JM Family has ranked on FORTUNE magazines annual list of "100 Best Companies to Work For" every year since 1999. It is also consistently ranked by Forbes magazine as one of the largest privately held companies in America.