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Hoot McInerney, Chrysler champion, 1929-2015

by Bill Cawthon on

Martin J. “Hoot” McInerney, a successful Michigan car dealer who not only sold Chryslers, but helped Lee Iacocca sell the 1979 Chrysler loan program to Congress, died Monday, February 16, at his home in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.


Born on January 23, 1929, McInerney began his automotive career at the age of seven when he started working for a car dealership on the east side of Detroit. He kept the coal furnace stoked, swept the floor and ran errands for 50 cents a week.

After graduating from Southeastern High School in 1946, he took a job at another car dealership. Other than a stint in the Marines during the Korean War, he spent the rest of his life in the car business.

Even his nickname came from the car business: a mechanic with whom he worked thought he looked Scottish and called him “Hoot”.

In 1963, McInerney bought his first dealership, Northland Chrysler Plymouth, with his older brother Thomas, who died in 2013. He later added Dodge and other brand dealerships to his empire, becoming one of America’s first mega-dealers.

Sixteen years later, McInerney was among the dealers who went to Washington with then-Chairman Lee Iacocca to lobby for the $1.5 billion loan that kept Chrysler solvent.

“We knocked on the doors of congressmen and senators,” McInerney remembered. “We told them we were the Arsenal of Democracy in World War II, and you’re destroying it.”

Close friend Lee Iacocca once said, “Hoot’s a closer, no question. He’s the ultimate sales guy, and someone that I was glad to have on our team.”

Oddly enough, McInerney didn’t care that much about the cars: his passion was sales.

In recent years, McInerney sold all but six of his dealerships which are now run by his sons Jim and Bob McInerney.

Survivors include Patricia, his wife of 64 years, five children, five grandchildren and and one great-grandchild.

Funeral Mass will be held Friday, February 20, at 11:00 a.m. at St. Hugo of the Hills Church, 2215 Opdyke Rd. in Bloomfield Hills.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial donations be made to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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