James Cameron started buying and selling cars when he was 20 years old, and it has been something he has always loved to do. He is an Army brat, the son of a Special Forces Vietnam vet, and has spent over 20 years in the auto sales industry. A few years after 9/11 he enlisted in the Army National Guard in Las Vegas, and then transferred here to be with the 441st out of Huntsville. He spent 11 months in Baghdad. Interestingly, he was on VBC (Victory Base Complex,) one of the bases where I worked, and for me the joy of being able to talk with James about places on base absolutely made my day.
Speaking of making someone’s day, James knows that most people don’t think of there being much “joy” in buying a used car. However, that is exactly what James has set out to do: make purchasing a pre-owned car actually fun. He had a lot of time while in Iraq to consider how to make his dream of owning his own auto sales business come true, what he would bring to the market place in terms of customer care, and how he would compete well in a market in which it is tough to succeed, irrespective of whether or not the economy is in a recession. The idea of calling his business Auto Liaison also came to him in Iraq, the reason being that James wanted to be the “liaison” that helped people find good quality used cars, and to give them what he described as “red carpet treatment.”
Auto Liaison incorporated in 2012, and James opened up the new location in the octagonal building at 22551 Hwy 72 in Athens (near the new Redstone Credit Union building,) in April of 2013. His office manager is Dawn Gardis, along with used car manager/mechanic Chris Bergquist, and lot attendant Seth Componation. The unusual octagonal building “felt like home, felt right,” and a year into the current location, business is good.
James has a particular niche when it comes to cars, and that is high-quality, low-mileage cars that are more sporty or perhaps less common. “We start with a quality product, which makes things easier for everyone, including the buyer,” he said. “We are also looking for cars with eye appeal, and our customers comment on how nice the cars are.” He has what he calls the “Papa John’s” approach: “better ingredients, better pizza, Papa John’s,” only it’s “better quality cars, better service, Auto Liaison.” James does market research on a fair price, and is not interested in a lot of dickering because his goal is to sell at or below market value. Most of his cars are in the 4K-5K range, and go up to 15K.
He also sells cars online, and has sold cars to customers in Memphis as well as a fellow brother in the military who was stationed in Alaska. People are driving from Tennessee and elsewhere to buy a used car. Why? “Better cars in better shape,” James said. “We are known for getting cool cars,” he added, “and we make sure the car is right.” He also mentioned that buying and selling at a fair price is “the purest form of capitalism,” and he truly enjoys what he does. He describes Chris as being “a good guy who has worked with me for a long time,” and he trusts him. Chris also helps with buying cars at auction, and together they make a great team.
One of James’ treasures, (featured in the background of him seated in the office of Auto Liaison), is a “chopper” with a unique history. It is an actual “Orange County Chopper” of television fame, and this one is known as the Hudson Valley Volunteer Fireman Raffle Bike. Besides being gorgeous, he loves it because it reminds him of people who put their lives on the line for others. He moved back here to help his mom, and be a true help to people who are understandably wary of used car salesmen. “Because we have one of the worst reputations in the world, we have to go the extra mile to overcome people’s fear of being taken advantage of. I love to take care of my customers, and have done things no one ever hears of just to make sure ‘things are right.’” If this sounds like the kind of place you have been looking for, then let Auto Liaison be the link to the car that truly meets your needs, and looks good to boot.
22551 Hyw 72 Athens, AL 35611
Hours: Mon-Fri 8-6 Sat 9-5
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By: Ali Elizabeth Turner