Barry Meguiar has elevated the family business with charisma, faith, and smart branding decisions. CSQ had the opportunity to speak with Meguiar on a recent afternoon at the Petersen Automotive Museum.
Meguiar started at the family business when he was in just grade school. He worked in every aspect of the business from the shop to the mixing rooms, to covering for vacationing employees. In high school Meguiar wrote up sales orders and later moved on to the accounting department.
Eventually, he took the Meguiar’s brand from $600,000 in annual sales becoming the global leader in car wax with hundreds of products and a 23% market share in the U.S.
As a car guy growing up in the SoCal car culture, Meguiar launched his family’s professional products into the world of car shows, where car guys already knew about Meguiar’s from their custom painters.
By the mid 1990s, car clubs and car shows were falling on bad times with an aging population. Meguiar created Car Crazy Radio and Car Crazy Television to unite and mobilize car guys globally, with the goal of promoting and growing the car hobby. Special emphasis was placed on handing the passion for the hobby down to the next generation.
CSQ Share a bit about your, and your family’s, relationship with cars.
BARRY MEGUIAR I was born at a great time, just before the car hobby began at the end of World War II. Our GIs learned how to make their cars go faster from working with motor pools and the aerodynamics of airplanes. Making their cars sleeker and with more horsepower led to the birth of the Hot Rod and a passion for show car perfect paint finishes.
In 1901, my grandfather was focused on creating perfectly clear finishes on black lacquer furniture. He lived in Indiana, where more than half of all the horseless carriage manufacturers were located. With almost all of the horseless carriages painted with black lacquer, my grandfather’s furniture polish became a carriage polish. polish began using it on their carriages.
CSQ And your introduction into the family business?
BM My Dad and his Dad only focused on professional products for Car Dealers and Body Shops. Long before I graduated college, sales had peaked at $600,000 per year. I had the choice to leave or roll up my sleeves and go to work.
I loved calling on shops and buffing cars, but the opportunity to go retail focused on Car Guys excited me. In 1969, I called a family meeting which was going no where. That changed when I explained I only wanted to focus on Car Guys who are not driven by price, who will follow directions and whose passion matches ours for creating perfectly clear paint finishes. It took the next four years and a lot of prayer to launch our first retail product, Meguiar’s Cleaner Wax, in 1973. It’s still one of our top ten best sellers.
CSQ What was your first car?
BM A black ’57 Chevy Bel Air hardtop. And when I drive that car today, on the same streets I drove it on as a teenager, I’m 16 years old all over again.
CSQ Who impresses you with their car knowledge?
BM That’s easy! Jay Leno. I don’t know anyone else who has the breadth of knowledge he has for almost every type of car imaginable. He’s phenomenal! Most Car Guys have a depth of knowledge on certain types of cars, but Jay knows and loves them all.