Credit Acceptance founder Don Foss passes away
Credit Acceptance said late on Monday that founder Don Foss passed away on Sunday from complications arising from an aggressive form of cancer. He was surrounded by his family, according to the company announcement.
Specializing in subprime auto financing, Credit Acceptance was incorporated in 1972, as Foss served as chief executive officer until 2002, followed by chairman of the board until his retirement in 2017.
Throughout his legendary career in the automotive industry, Foss was recognized with many awards, including:
—Innovative CEO in the Top Small Companies in America issue of Forbes. (1996)
—Lifetime Achievement Award from the Metro Detroit Chapter of the Michigan NIADA for his contributions to the automobile industry through Credit Acceptance and his personal philanthropy. (2003)
—Special Finance Hall of Fame Award from Special Finance Insider Magazine. (2008)
—Entrepreneur Shares Global 400 leadership award. (2010)
—Northwood University presented him with a Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causa, degree. (2010)
—NABD Hall of Fame Award. (2015)
When he was inducted by the National Alliance of Buy-Here, Pay-Here Dealers, Foss recapped the start of his time in the automobile industry, which spanned 55 years, beginning in 1967 when he opened his first car lot in Detroit and began selling primarily to customers who did not qualify for traditional financing.
When Foss opened his own retail operation, it was dirt lot he rented for $35 a month.
“Like most of you who worked in a family business, I worked after school and during the summers,” Foss said during his acceptance speech after receiving his Hall of Fame induction.
“My dad was my mentor,” Foss said. “He taught me a great lesson early on. You can’t sell anything by saying no.”
Foss evidently didn’t say no to customers too often. That single dirt-lot operation grew into 17 locations. Foss also harkened back to his father’s advice to formulate what’s now Credit Acceptance.
“My wife would like nothing better than for me to kick back and take it easy, just live off the fruits of my labor. But I still like the car business. I still have fun selling cars,” Foss said during that 2015 speech.
“I humbly accept this award,” he continued. “I think about all of the wonderful people I’ve worked with over the years who have helped me through my career. But I don’t want you guys to think I’m done. I’d like to think I’m just getting started.”
In July, Credit Acceptance celebrated its 50th anniversary with Foss being part of the festivities.
“Five decades ago, our founder, Don Foss, came up with an innovative way to offer auto financing to enable dealers to sell cars to more people,” the company said in a LinkedIn post commemorating the milestone. “And now, individuals with no credit or bad credit are able to rebuild their credit by making on-time car payments and putting themselves on the road to a better financial future.
“Since our founding, we’ve served millions of consumers, thousands of dealers and over 2100 team members delivering on the mission to change lives,” the company continued.
Credit Acceptance went on to highlight in Monday’s announcement that not only was Foss known for his incredible business insight and perseverance, but he also lived the company’s “We Change Lives” purpose in his community.
The Don Foss Annual Scholarship (created in 1998) and the Don Foss Endowed Scholarship (created in 2015) together have awarded more than 630 scholarships to students pursuing careers in the automotive industry at Northwood University. And in 2016, he established a private fund, Car Dealers Care National Foundation, which gives back to the community both through his personal philanthropy and through CARite, a chain of dealerships he founded in 2011.
“Don has left behind a lifetime of hard work, which turned Credit Acceptance into one of the largest auto finance companies in the country. He was truly an American Entrepreneurial Icon, and his story epitomizes the great American dream. Don’s death is a great loss, and he will be missed by many,” the company said.
“Our deepest condolences to the Foss family and everyone who knew Don,” the company went on to say.