Bill Marsh Sr., the founder of Bill Marsh Automotive Group in Traverse City, has died. He was 80. His family confirmed that he died in Leelanau County on Wednesday from Alzheimer’s disease.
Marsh Sr. built a single dealership with 12 employees into an automotive group with multiple dealerships and 250 employees in northern Michigan. He sold the company to three of his sons when he retired in 2006.
Bill Marsh Jr. says his dad was focused on creating value for his customers and employees.
“He used to tell us that the goal of a business is not to make money,” Bill Marsh Jr. says. “Money is obviously very important but money is a byproduct. It’s a fruit. It’s not a root of a business. The goal of a business is to create value.”
Marsh Sr. had not intended to become an automobile dealer. He graduated with a degree in history from Yale University in the 1950s and had planned to become a lawyer. But when his father became ill, Marsh Sr. left law school to take over running his father’s car dealership in the Philadelphia area.
In the early 1980s, he decided to move to northern Michigan and bought a small Buick dealership in Traverse City. Marsh Sr. had spent time in the area as a kid.
Bill Marsh Jr. says his dad became a visionary in the car-selling world.
“He introduced … a lot of just very innovative concepts like our negotiation-free selling that he introduced in 1997 that we still do today,” Marsh Jr. says. “We were only one of a handful of dealers in the country that was willing to abandon this age-old practice of negotiation.”