Mike Sullivan, CEO of LAcarGUY, began his automotive career in 1976 at VW Santa Monica, eventually expanding in 1989 when he opened Lexus Santa Monica. PHOTO Courtesy of LAcarGUY

LAcarGUY opens new dealership in Santa Monica

By Michele Robinson

Recently, LAcarGuy opened Genesis Santa Monica – their 13th car dealership and sixth in Santa Monica. This award-winning billion dollar company with over 900 employees is run by one family: the Sullivans.

The secret driving the company to success is strong family ties. It all started with Wilfred H. “Sully” Sullivan, who was the general manager of Volkswagen Santa Monica in 1964 and bought it in 1969.

Sully owned and operated the first dealership and brought his son, Mike, on board in 1976. Mike worked up through the ranks and eventually bought out his father in 1989. With Mike at the helm, the expansion started and LAcarGUY was born. Mike bought Lexus in 1993 and other dealerships soon followed; now they own seven brands.

“It was a natural and steady growth. I wanted to grow slowly and stay in the area,” Mike said.

LAcarGUY is the corporate name that Mike came up with 35 years ago. Even back then, he was concerned that the brick and mortar stores would be dated so he created a one word website name to transition into the digital age.

“I’ve been lucky to be a little ahead of the curve,” Mike said.

Staying ahead of the curve also includes helping the environment. As a company, LAcarGuy has been instrumental in the green car movement since 1997 when they launched the Toyota Prius. They chose to add Genesis, the luxury model of Hyundai, as their newest car dealership because Genesis will debut their first fully-electric model: the Electrified G80. LAcarGUY now offers 30 “green” models including hybrid, plug-in, EV and Alternative Fuel vehicles.

“How do we change today for what the future will bring tomorrow?” Mike said.

Continuing the tradition to keep it all in the family, Mike brought on his three children to help run the corporation. His oldest son, Sean, is currently the president. His second son, Kelly, is in charge of real estate and his daughter, Meghan, is the chief marketing officer in charge of advertising and running the charitable Family Foundation.

Mikes hopes his grandchildren will also follow in these footsteps when they are old enough to participate.

“Three generations all get together and get along,” Mike said.

What is interesting and a little surprising is that the car dealership is only about 50 percent of how the family corporation thrives. The other half is in real estate run by Kelly. The family owns apartment buildings and the land that is under their dealerships. They buy land, wait for the lease to expire and then can expand.

“It is a broader base to have choices,” Mike said.

Another wonderful aspect of the Sullivan family is how much they give back to the community. Meghan runs many events though the Family Foundation. Mike is the upcoming Board Chair for Heal the Bay and for the past 10 years has been involved in Grades of Green, where kids are taught how to implement sustainable practices for the environment and bring home those lessons to their parents and communities. With an impressive global reach of 940 teams worldwide and 870 U.S. teams in place, Grades of Green also teaches kids effective public speaking skills and how to present.

LAcarGuy also encourages their employees to give back. Since 2010, they have 600 employees involved in the “Green Team” to inspire them to get involved in community programs.

“We try to pick partners that share our philanthropy goals,” Mike said.

Partnering with companies like Subaru for the past 10 years, the Sullivans have put on dog adoption events with Gone to the Dogs.

“The kids from Grades of Greens wanted to do a project,” Mike said. “They made dog toys and sold them at the dog adoption event.”

Mike is grateful for all that he and his family have accomplished and the positive impact they have had on the community over the years.

“For 45 years, I have had a great and blessed career,” Mike said.