Sam Swope: Our Industry Loses A Community Advocate And Pioneer

December 11, 2014

In the early days of vAuto, it wasn’t easy to get dealers to recognize that the Internet was changing the used car business, much less convince them to buy inventory management software to help them navigate this transformative shift in the market.

But some dealers got it right away.sam swope image edited

One of those dealers was Sam Swope, the legendary head of the the Louisville, Ky.-based Sam Swope Auto Group. Sam passed away yesterday afternoon at his home in Louisville, surrounded by family.

“He was a fighter all the way to the end,” says Cary Donovan, Swope’s long-time director of used vehicle operations. “He was 88 years old and he just got low on fuel. I had lunch with him a few weeks ago and while he was moving slower, his mind was as sharp as ever.”

Sam’s passing received front-page coverage in today’s Louisville Courier-Journal. The article highlights his success as a car dealer and his commitment to the community. It states, “Swope showered millions of dollars on local charities. He had a soft spot for disabled children, animals and the elderly, those he felt were the most vulnerable.”

Two years ago, Swope formally retired from the business he started in 1952. But “he never really let go. The business was his lifeline,” Donovan says. “Our goal is to carry Sam’s vision forward into the future.”

I recall a meeting at Swope’s dealerships about five years ago, which I had requested to better understand why his dealership group was out-performing other dealers in used vehicles by leaps and bounds.

Sam shared his philosophy as an automotive retailer, which helped me see why he, Donovan and the rest of the Swope team seemed a step ahead of the industry: “We are not a new car dealer with a used car department. We are used car dealers who, in most cases, happen to have a new car franchise.”

Tonight, I’ll take a moment to remember Sam’s keen car business acumen and all the good that he embodied as one of the nation’s leading car dealers. I’ll also smile as I think of him riding his trademark Harley-Davidson up in heaven.