Jim Moran's Story: He Taught Toyota How to Sell

Jim Moran at the 2005 YATC Graduation with Miami Dolphins legend Earl Morrall, a loyal friend and longtime supporter of the school.

Jim Moran at the 2005 YATC Graduation with Miami Dolphins legend Earl Morrall, a loyal friend and longtime supporter of the school.

At 46, James Martin Moran was diagnosed with cancer and told he had six months to a year to live. He was told he had a 10% chance to survive. Already the world's largest Ford dealer, Jim Moran "retired" to Florida and fought a difficult battle with the disease. 

He beat it. 

He then came to a crossroads that would change his life when he was approached by Toyota Motor Sales with the possibility of distributing their products. He was impressed with the quality after his first test-drive in a Toyota in early 1968. At a preliminary meeting with the Executive Vice President of Toyota Motor Company, 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 was awarded the franchise to distribute Toyotas, and Southeast Toyota Distributors (SET) was born. Other automotive-related businesses followed, including parent company JM Family Enterprises – one of the largest, most innovative and diversified companies in the automotive industry today.

In 1969, Southeast Toyota had 42 dealers in a five-state region and revolutionized the automobile industry with the introduction of the 33-ASR Teletype, the first computer network in the automotive industry to link dealers with the distributorship.

With Jim’s determination to move the company 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. Southeast Toyota’s record-breaking sales propelled Toyota in 1975 above Volkswagen for the first time in the United States. In 1982, Jim celebrated when the SET distributorship and its then 151 dealers sold their 1 millionth Toyota.

TLC (Tender Loving Care) Corporation – later becoming JM&A Group -- was established in 1978 to offer extended service contracts to SET customers.

In 1981, World Omni Financial Corp. was formed and became the first captive automotive finance company for an import car company.

The Toyota tradition continued with the growth of Lexus, a luxury car born from a discussion between Dr. S. Toyoda and Jim Moran in 1984. JM Lexus, established in 1989, quickly became the #1 Lexus dealership in the United States.

Against All Odds

From 1994-1996, Jim wrote his autobiography Jim Moran: The Courtesy Man. In his own words:

"I did not want to write this book, thinking who would want to read it, and was extremely reluctant to do so. I resisted writing it for over five years. Some of my family and some of my very best friends - including Bob Barnett - insisted on it. Dr. Toyoda asked me to write it and to do so with an eye toward making it a movie. While I respect him greatly, I spent more of my life interrupting movies for commercials than doing things that would make my life an exciting Hollywood script.

As I see it, there's not much in my life that people would really want to read about. There have been ups and downs and not much action. I'm lucky to have spent nearly my whole life in a business I really like. Almost all people who hate their work fail at it. Some people love their work and still do badly at it because they don't know how to maintain balance.

What finally swayed me to write this book was feeling the obligation to write our book and not my book - a chronicle of the great people whom I've had a chance to work with over the years, especially those at JM Family Enterprises and Southeast Toyota. It's my deep hope that "our book" will document some of the most memorable contributions which our people have made to the evolution of the American automobile industry - and those contributions by the people I work with have been many."

JM Family Enterprises, Inc. is recognized as a world leader in the automotive business, Jim Moran had already made a significant impact in the industry and in the South Florida community. With a career that spanned more than six decades, Jim was truly an automotive pioneer. Before his passing on April 24, 2007, Jim’s lifetime achievements were recognized by his 1996 Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans Award and his 2005 induction into the Automotive Hall of Fame, the single greatest honor in the international motor vehicle industry.

Jim Moran founded the Youth Automotive Training Center (YATC), located in Deerfield Beach, Florida as a privately funded program that offers basic automotive repair training, GED and academic preparation, and life skills proficiency for at-risk young people. 

After open heart surgery saved his life in 1988, Moran donated $1 million to fund a cardiovascular intensive care unit at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale. Jim Moran and JM Family Enterprises gave a combined $6 million in 2000 to build the Jim Moran Heart and Vascular Center. His last donation was a five-year, $26 million Moran Challenge for the Jim Moran Heart and Vascular Research Institute, that began in 2006.

In 2000, he established The Jim Moran Foundation with the mission to improve the quality of life for the youth and families of Florida through the support of innovative programs and opportunities that meet the ever-changing needs of the community. JM Family Enterprises continues to provide funding for the entity. In 2015 the foundation made a $100 million donation to Florida State University to create the Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship in downtown Tallahassee. Early estimates for the completion date is August 2018.

In December 2015, the Jim Moran Foundation gave what is believed to be the largest single contribution ever in Florida's higher education system - a $100 million donation to Florida State University.

Jim Moran's net worth of $2.4 billion ranked him 390th on the Forbes 400 at the time of his death. 

He truly dreamed big.