Thomas Moorehead, President and CEO of Sterling Motor Cars, continues to forge innovative paths by expanding his presence in the automotive industry. Moorehead recently acquired Lamborghini and McLaren to add to his suite of luxury automotive dealerships. With this recent acquisition Moorehead becomes the first African American Lamborghini and McLaren dealer in the history of both brands, worldwide. Prior to this achievement, Moorehead was also the first African American Rolls Royce dealer in the world.
Sterling Motor Cars, established in 2002, matches sport and luxury vehicle enthusiasts to new and preowned brands in over 115,000 square feet of state-of-the-art showrooms. With locations in Sterling, Virginia, and Fort Washington and Oxon Hill, Maryland, Sterling Motor Cars is the leading provider of luxury cars in the Washington Metropolitan Area, as well as in Delaware and Southern Pennsylvania. Luxury brands include BMW of Sterling, Lamborghini Sterling, McLaren Sterling, Rolls Royce Motor Cars Sterling, Mini of Sterling, Harley-Davidson Washington, DC and Harley Davidson National Harbor.
Moorehead credits his continued growth to the importance of having a quality team of professionals dedicated to customer experience and satisfaction. “Product, location and people are essential. Identifying and hiring good people is the key,” said Moorehead. “I always tell my employees that the boss in the store is not Tom Moorehead. It’s Mr. & Mrs. Customer. Without them, we might as well lock our doors.”
A proven track record of solid performance and superior customer satisfaction are just two, of many, elements contributing to the growth of Sterling Motors. Moorehead is a diligent marketer who researches, analyzes and applies winning strategies to his businesses. He has distinguished Sterling Motors as the largest luxury dealer in the Southeastern region.
“You must understand the various manufacturers, by realizing their expectations of you while understanding the corporate ID and culture of the brand,” said Moorehead. “If you learn all you can about the brand and understand what is required of you by the manufacture, it helps you determine if it is the best brand for you, in the location where you are.”
Moorehead acquired his wealth of insight from a career that had an auspicious start. Prior to becoming an automotive dealer, Moorehead was pursuing the life of the mind as a PhD candidate in Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Michigan. He received his undergraduate degree from Grambling State University, and his Master’s Degree from University of Michigan. Moorehead was Director of the Office of Community Service and a teacher of graduate students in the School of Social Work.
“I had a fraternity brother by the name of James Bradley who called me into meet with me and said, ‘I’ve had an opportunity to see you over the years. I like what I see. I think you have the makings of an entrepreneur. I would particularly like to see you consider the automotive industry,” shared Moorehead from his offices in Sterling, VA. “When Mr. Bradley recommended the automotive industry, I saw that as being guys with plaid jackets, stretch knit pants, smoking cigarettes and that wasn’t for me. He suggested I go over and take a look at some dealerships in Detroit. After I did that I went back and shared with him my insights. I also shared with him that being a dealer was perhaps something I would consider.”
Moorehead adjusted his professional plans, humbled himself and worked hard for Mr. Bradley learning the business from his mentor. He rotated through every element of the dealership from sales to service to gain a better understanding of how a dealership operates.
“Sometimes you have to take a step back in order to take a step forward. If you want to get in this business, you have to be willing to start at the bottom and work your way to the top. Learn everything you can about your business because you never want to be held hostage by any of your managers. If you have to let someone go, you have to be able to step in, do the job and take it to the next level until you get someone to replace that individual.”
As General Motors launched their Minority Dealer Development program, Moorehead was selected as one of six candidates that would participate in their first in-house training class. This program provided intensive training and testing on all aspects of dealership success along with resources to facilitate placement into new dealership locations. Moorehead graduated and went on to own multiple Buick, Isuzu and BMW dealerships in Nebraska and Illinois prior to starting Sterling Motors in 2002 in the Southeast.
“I was awarded the first BMW store in an undeveloped market in Loudoun County, Virginia. When I started the building process, BMW wanted the store to have eleven service bays. I pleaded with them to allow me to build more service bays. They approved seventeen. In the course of building I actually increased it to twenty-six service bays,” shared Moorehead describing his vision for growth. “I did research, looking at BMW stores across America, and I found all of the stores across the country were outgrowing themselves in three years. It told me that I needed to step up, and stretch to the point that I built a bit more than approved. In three years we still outgrew the store.”
Committed to improving opportunities, Moorehead is an active member and former Chair of the National Association of Minority Automotive Dealers, the premier advocacy organization for diverse automotive dealers. Moorehead has worked to support increased opportunities for minority college students within the industry along with initiatives to support generational legacy and succession planning for dealer families.
“Having Lamborghini, McLaren and Rolls Royce as luxury brands has set a precedent and continues Tom’s legacy of being a true trailblazer and innovator in our industry among all dealers not simply African Americans,” said Damon Lester, President of the National Association of Minority Automotive Dealers. “This shows achievement and success for what he’s been able to do through his thirty plus years as a dealer.”
In addition to being the largest luxury car retailer in the region, Sterling Motor Cars is committed to the community. The Joyce and Thomas Moorehead Foundation was established in 2004, with a focus on higher education, and has given over $400,000.00 in scholarship and emergency relief to well-deserving high school students. As major donors, the Mooreheads have donated $100,000.00 to the new National Museum of African American History and Culture. Good financial citizenship is very important to the Mooreheads. Because of his own humble beginnings in Monroe, Louisiana, Mr. Moorehead created the foundation to inspire low income students to attain their highest dreams.
“This is what it’s all about, bringing other people up and giving something back,” states Moorehead.