2012-10-11 / Business Briefs

Not your typical car dealer

Automax scours auctions for luxury cars, ships fast
BY MARILYN BAUER

Buying a car at the best of times is a stressful and often frustrating experience. Even with tools like CarMax and AutoCheck, the used car customer may not really have the information needed to make an informed decision.

One business is out to change that.

North Palm Beach resident Bill McLaughlin has come up with an alternative — one he hopes changes the way all of America shops for cars and trucks.

Mr. McLaughlin, the former president and CEO of Starwood Vacation Resorts, was looking for something post retirement to “get him out of the house” when he hit on a way to not only make money but help others.

“I’ve always been a car guy,” he said.

Setting himself up as an auto manufacturer’s representative, he began to attend closed auctions, buying as many as 15 off-lease vehicles at a time, mostly for Northeast dealerships looking for rust-free Florida cars. His client list grew to include new car dealers from New York to Georgia — dealers sold on Mr. McLaughlin’s stringent testing and practice of charging the dealerships only $500 over his cost.


Bill McLaughlin started Automax in Lake Park. 
COURTESY PHOTO Bill McLaughlin started Automax in Lake Park. COURTESY PHOTO He started AutoMax of America in 1992, scouring the country for luxury brands, transporting them to Florida then shipping them out as soon as possible

“AutoMax doesn’t look like your typical car lot,” he said of the 1351 S. Killian Drive location in Lake Park. “It looks more like a maintenance place with 30-50 cars set up to ship to different parts of the country. Through word of mouth and friends of friends we started getting requests direct from the consumer and so we set up a website.”

A car buyer can log on to automax ofamerica.com and enter in exactly the type of car he or she is looking for from color, make, options, model to mileage.

“I put in an order last Monday and we just picked up two trucks from Bill in less than a week,” said Buddy Wittmann of Wittmann Building Corporation in Palm Beach. “There were only five of these trucks in the U.S. You couldn’t ask for a more reliable and honest salesperson. “ It takes about a week for Mr. McLaughlin to find the requested car. He charges consumers the same $500 over wholesale fee he charges dealerships and if you are a veteran or in the military, the price is reduced to $250. “I have access to 100,000 to 150,000 cars every week,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “I can find the exact car you are looking for. I charge less than what the dealerships charge in dealer’s fees.”

Mr. McLaughlin, who served four years in the military, was born in West Point. His father was an instructor there. He says he has been around the military his whole life and is committed to helping active service men and women, and veterans, find affordable cars.

“I don’t make any money on those cars,” he said. “It’s hard to find a quality car for less than $2,000. People don’t realize how much work goes into what we do.”

Mr. McLaughlin’s cars come with the CarFax and AutoCheck reports in addition to his own condition report and post-sale inventory. He recommends all car buyers purchase extended service warranties because the cars he specializes in — BMW, Acura, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus — can be expensive to service.

For information, call 632-9093.¦

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