This interview with Cartelligent CEO, David Shapiro, originally appeared on Grail Magazine
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Before I could talk I was interested in cars. My parents tell stories about how I would point out cars from my car seat. As a child, I played with Matchbox cars and Hot Wheels.
Who was your most important role model?
My father, Edward Shapiro. He was in the apparel business. Growing up, I would watch him every morning at the breakfast table. He was always excited to get up and go to work. He was extremely positive. He loved talking to his customers and working with the buyers. From him, I learned that, if you love what you do, “work is fun.” He was and is unconditionally supportive, and my biggest fan. He gave me confidence to fulfill my dreams.
How did you get into the car business?
In college, I worked for Enterprise Rent-A-Car where I learned the value of an organized training program and working with energetic, passionate employees. I also worked as a salesperson for a car dealership where I learned how important it is to listen to what the customer wants.
How did you start Cartelligent?
I was 23. I had very little money in the bank. I had no fear, I knew there had to be a way to make the car buying experience easier and more enjoyable for customers. I got an office, because to get a license you had to have an office. I ran ads in the Chronicle to get customers. I began calling car dealers. The Internet was just getting started at the time. Once I had delivered a few cars I began getting instant referrals. Within six months, I hired my first employee.
How has the business grown and what do you foresee in the future?
We’re headquartered in Sausalito and we have six delivery centers throughout California. We see the biggest growth opportunity in Silicon Valley and Southern California. As technology changes (electric and self-driving cars) our role is more important. We are very knowledgeable about current trends, technology, model changes, the best time of year to buy, and leasing and financing terms.
Who are your customers?
We help everyone from first-time car-buyers to returning luxury car lessees. Parents buying a car for a kid’s 16th birthday, corporate executives, and wives or husbands looking to surprise their spouse. Recently a company in San Francisco ordered two $150k Mercedes-Benzes to be delivered as gifts to their top executives.
What are the most important things you want your customers to know?
It’s really easy to purchase a car with Cartelligent. With one telephone call, you save time, money and enjoy the experience. We can find or order any new car, and because of our availability to transact in volume, we can negotiate fantastic prices. An exceptional customer experience is the foundation of our business. We can provide anyone with a personal, custom-tailored car buying experience that fits their needs. Customers are able to speak one-on-one with someone our team, who can answer virtually any of their questions.
Any challenging requests?
Yes, a recent customer needed a rare car for his wife’s birthday. On very short notice, we delivered the car wrapped in a big red bow on their doorstep in San Francisco. Another client wanted a fully loaded all-wheel-drive minivan to take on a trip to Tahoe in 48 hours. There was one in the country, and we found it in Reno. We had someone fly to Reno, pick up the car, and deliver it to the client’s home in Marin. We do what it takes. We are looking for long-term relationships with very happy customers, who will refer friends and family.
What is the most expensive car you ever sold?
A Maybach (valued at $400,000+), Rolls-Royce, Bentley, and Aston Martin—we also help clients buy and lease everything for Volkswagens and Toyotas to BMWs, Audis, Land Rovers and Porsches. Our capabilities are as varied as our clients’ needs and wants.
How did your model car collection get started?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve collected all things car-related. Now I’m a passionate collector of scale model cars. In 1996, I discovered a store in Beverly Hills that sold collectible model cars. I got their catalog and made more purchases. There I went to Germany on vacation and discovered that the German people are crazy for model cars and trains. I visited many hobby shops and went to the BMW, Porsche and Mercedes-Benz museums. I came home with a suitcase of cars. Then came the Internet where I buy more of them now. The exact number of cars in my collection in a well-kept secret.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Book you’re reading:
Work Rules by Laszlo Bock (Head of People Operations at Google)
Favorite dinner guest:
Jerry Seinfeld (a passionate car collector)
Favorite television show as a kid:
I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it. (Thomas Jefferson)
Favorite vacation spot:
Hawaii, Germany, Italy