Microphone in hand, Tommy Baker described for dozens of clients and friends the origins of the Charleston car company that bears his name.
It was 1988, and he had bought Langston Motors import car dealership. Tucked along Morrison Drive, the outlet would grow steadily. Over time it would morph into Baker Motor Co., which today spans 11 new car dealerships along the Savannah Highway. But he started with one brand: Mercedes-Benz. “They took us to the dance,” he said.
Then, Baker reflected on the moment’s significance.
“If you thought we would end up in a place like this on a night like this, it’s unbelievable,” he said, looking out on the crowd attending the Oct. 24 celebration for Baker Motor Co.’s quarter-century in business.
The gala event, centered in the Baker Mercedes-Benz showroom and spread out to adjacent dealerships, won an appearance from Mercedes-Benz USA president and CEO Steve Cannon. At one point, he joined Baker, wife Vickie and their two daughters center-stage.
“There’s 20,000 (car dealerships) in the U.S.,” Cannon said, in remarks to the guests. “Mr. Baker is among the top 100. That’s an incredible accomplishment,” he said, referring to Baker Motor landing on Automotive News’ list of the 100 “Best Dealerships to Work For” this year.
Cannon also highlighted Baker Mercedes’ success in the carmaker’s Best of the Best dealership award, taking home top honors seven of the past 10 years. “That’s amazing,” he said.
Cannon, promoted to the top U.S. post for Mercedes close to two years ago, also remarked on the German manufacturer’s growing sales figures in America. “We are going to sell more than 300,000 cars for the first time this year,” he said.
Mercedes-Benz launched the redesigned S class in 2013 and this fall rolled out the entry level CLA for $29,900. “It’s a new entry point,” Cannon said.
Earlier in the evening, Cannon fielded a few questions while with Baker in his office.
“Our business is going great. It’s an exciting time,” he said, noting how Mercedes-Benz set sales record for each month through September. The new CLA, he said, brings “our brand to new people.”
He also touched on the newly remodeled Sprinter van, assembled at the Daimler factory in North Charleston.
“The U.S. will be one of the leading Sprinter growth areas,” the CEO said.
Cannon – a former marketing director with Mercedes – and Baker first met in 2007 when the Charleston entrepreneur served as chairman of the Mercedes dealership leadership board in the U.S. “A friendship developed,” Baker said.
“He’s a guy I call (as a sounding board),” Cannon said, adding that Baker is one of the few dealers he includes “on speed dial.”
Baker Motor Co. sells Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Land Rover, Jaguar, smart, Infiniti, Sprinter and Maserati from its Savannah Highway locale, while Baker separately runs a Cadillac Buick GMC dealership on Savannah Highway and a pre-owned car center in Mount Pleasant.
Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or email@example.com.
Lisa DeVeaux (left), and Teresa and Brad Vaughn enjoy the fixin’s at Baker Mercedes-Benz for the Baker Motor Co. anniversary event Oct. 24 (Jim Parker/Staff 10-24-2013).×
Woodwind musicians perform at Baker Motor’s 25th anniversary party in Charleston (Jim Parker/Staff 10-24-2013).×
Guests enjoy brisket and other delicacies at the Baker Motor celebration of 25 years in business Oct. 24 (Jim Parker/Staff 10-24-2013).×
Special napkins noting how Baker Motor has been serving Charleston for 25 years were made up for the party (Jim Parker/Staff 10-24-2013).×
Velma Ray (left) and Dana Butler take in the Baker Motor 25th anniversary party Oct. 24 at the company dealerships on Savannah Highway (Jim Parker/Staff 10-24-2013).×
An S-class Mercedes convertible serves as a backdrop for guests at the Oct. 24 gala (Jim Parker/Staff 10-24-2013).×
Shown at the Baker Motor 25th anniversary event are (from left) Jay Rose, sales associate with Baker Mercedes-Benz; Beverly Speer; Justin Reese; Monica Reese; and D.W. Speer (Jim Parker/Staff 10-24-2013).×
Dorie (left) and George Spaulding were among the dozens of guests at the Baker Motor gathering (Jim Parker/Staff 10-24-2013).×
Images of Baker Motor’s 25 years dotted the reception Oct. 24 in Charleston (Jim Parker/Staff 10-24-2013).×
Elwood Gross (right) and Bob Brinson checked out the new Mercedes CLA at the anniversary party on Savannah Highway (Jim Parker/Staff 10-24-2013).×
Nancy Davis (left) and Joe Lynch, manager with Baker Motor, were among the event-goers (Jim Parker/Staff 10-24-2013).×
A multimedia device in the Mercedes-Benz dealership showed clips of cars and products (Jim Parker/Staff 10-24-2013).×
The Baker Motor 25th anniversary event sported a red carpet and greeters (Jim Parker/Staff 10-24-2013).×
Dr. Andre Hebra, chief of Pediatric Surgery at MUSC Children’s Hospital, gets an upclose look at the new Mercedes CLA (Jim Parker/Staff 10-24-2013).×
Katie Baker (left) and Trey and Garrett Rust enjoy the party at Baker Motor (Jim Parker/Staff 10-24-2013).×
Peter McGhee (from left), Lawrence Greenspon and Robert Hayward partake of food and beverages at the Oct. 24 event in Charleston (Jim Parker/Staff 10-24-2013).×
Tommy Baker chats with two of the guests at the 25th anniversary shindig (Jim Parker/Staff 10-24-2013).×
Carman Schachte (from left), Joyce Neuman and Barbara and Paul Franklin took part in the Baker Motor gala Oct. 24 (Jim Parker/Staff 10-24-2013).×
Mercedes USA president and CEO Steve Cannon (left), Tommy Baker, wife Vickie and daughters Katie and Cassie Baker line the stage at the Baker Motor 25th anniversary party (Jim Parker/Staff 10-24-2013).×