Gerald Ray Lane didn't drive a new car until he was 24, and only then because he was selling it. He escaped the poverty of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl where he spent his childhood choking on dust storms so thick that day turned to night. Gerry fled to California to work in a defense plant after World War II; the day he arrived the plant closed down. That's when Gerry Lane became a car salesman. "I had no training. I had no story," he later wrote in his biography, Gerry Lane: $10 Billion Success. "All I had was the truth, so I told customers, "I'm a dumb Okie who will starve if I don't sell this car, so that's why I'll make you the best deal that can possibly be made." And the truth did set me free. I learned quickly that the car business is too mysterious to most people and to have any hope for customers to trust you is to simply tell them the truth, to treat them the way I wanted to be treated. Repeat business is all based on trust and trust is based on truth. All successful business people know this."
Though Gerry died in 2013, sixty years of his hard-earned philosophy is still working. He's still helping families one car at a time. Gerry Lane dealerships consistently outsell the majority of automotive dealerships in the Gulf South year after year because of great customer service. Gerry Lane is the only dealership that guarantees free oil changes for life on all new cars, so customers will enjoy years of trouble-free service. This alone saves customers thousands of dollars over the life of a two-car household; not to mention, the hassle-free convenience of simply bringing the vehicle back for quick maintenance. Gerry worked on cars all his life and knew maintenance reduced trouble. That's why he wanted his dealerships to be known for taking maintenance pressure off of customers and for treating them with fairness.
Eric Lane, Gerry's son and now president of Gerry Lane Enterprises, and Saundra Lane, his daughter and president of The Lane Agency, worked their way up through the ranks, too. Gerry Lane, the father, gave them no free rides, knowing that success only comes through hard work, education, and dedication. Eric had a great baseball career with the San Francisco Giants while still working during the off-season. After baseball had ended, he started with the family business full-time. Eric started at the bottom and learned his father's business the same way Gerry did, by working hard and treating everyone with respect. Saundra won awards for some of the most innovative advertising seen in the automotive world and made the Lane name one of the most recognizable trade names in the Baton Rouge area. Their hard work and fair play is what still keeps Gerry Lane at the top today. The third generation has begun to partake in leadership roles in the company. Grandson, Tyler Lane, is keeping with tradition by coming aboard as Dealer Operations and Internet Manager. While, granddaughter, Ashton Lane, is also continuing the family legacy by managing the dealership spending in the accounting office.
Because Gerry came from poverty, he understood that success in life comes through helping as many people as possible. That's why in the 30 years since Gerry Lane came to Baton Rouge, the Lane family has given well over $30 million to local charities and philanthropic endeavors. Gerry fought cancer for 30 years and is still helping others beat it. He raised millions of dollars for Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center so families wouldn't have to travel to Houston, Chicago or New York for treatment. His children and grandchildren continue that spirit today with contributions and involvement spread over 400 different charities.
Gerry led the way in race relations, too, by being first to integrate his sales force and work staff. He hired and mentored Cedric Patton some 30 years ago, making him a full partner in 1994. Patton continues Gerry's passion for excellence in customer service, sales training, and streamlined operations. For the sales staff, Gerry compressed years of sales training, books and study into daily training to make salespeople very successful without ever venturing from the basic principle of treating customers right. This includes facts, fairness, and financial help. Every member of the Gerry Lane team is positively reinforced every day to overcome personal setbacks. They do this by doing what he did: fill the customer's needs first.
Gerry wrote his life's story with Louisiana Literary Award® winner Leo Honeycutt in 2012 to encourage readers to learn that failure and rejection are very useful tools. Gerry endured destitution, prejudice, defeat, hurricanes, cancer, economic downturns, bad car designs, litigation, and near bankruptcy. Even General Motors took years to grant him a dealership though his sales records soared to the top. "For anyone who wants to succeed," Gerry said of his book, "I wanted to point hard workers in the right direction. Setbacks, failures and disappointments are merely the doors to success. I've provided a few shortcuts." Gerry Lane Enterprises today gives the book to university business graduates along with select scholarships.
Gerry Lane. Still giving.
When you're buying a car from Gerry Lane dealerships, you're buying a legacy of pure American determination to do what's right. We hope to smooth out the ride for you and your family on the trip through life.