MT. ARLINGTON, N.J. – Jim Moran, owner of JM Family Enterprises and recipient of the first annual International Automotive Remarketers Alliance (IARA) Circle of Excellence award in 2003, passed away in Hillsboro Beach, Fla., the morning of April 24, 2007 at the age of 88 — six years after he handed over the reigns of his 38-year-old JM Family Enterprises.

"I would like to extend my condolences to the family of Jim Moran and to all of the associates of J. M. Family Enterprises. Mr. Moran was a true visionary. He has brought so much to our industry and asked for so little in return," said Stephen Houston, national VP of remarketing for Wachovia Dealer Services and IARA president.

"The IARA is honored to have had the privilege of awarding our very first Circle of Excellence award to Jim in 2003. The list of accomplishments, acts of kindness, and generosity was overwhelming on the day he received the recognition. I remember thinking that it was amazing that one man had touched so many lives in so many great ways with so much charity. We will all miss him very much," Houston continued.

A private ceremony will be held as well as two public “Celebration of Life Gatherings” — one at JM Family’s corporate headquarters in Deerfield Beach and one at Southeast Toyota’s Westlake Vehicle Processing facility in Jacksonville, Fla. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to The Jim Moran Foundation, 100 Jim Moran Bld., Deerfield Beach, FL 33442 or to the Youth Automotive Training Center, 399 SW 3rd Ave., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441.

Respected and beloved throughout the automotive industry, Moran’s legacy will not be forgotten. Starting out with a used-car lot, Moran’s vision led to the creation of Jim Moran and Associates (JM&A Group) in 1982 — a company that has grown from a core distribution business into a $11.1 billion diversified automotive corporation focusing on vehicle distribution and processing, financial services, finance and insurance products, retail sales, and dealer technology solutions.

“His extreme generosity and deep compassion for others, coupled with his business ingenuity and strong belief in good old-fashion hard work, made him an inspiration to us all,” read an e-mail sent to company associates this morning. “Mr. Moran cared about people a great deal and none more than all of you. True to the phrase he coined decades ago, the associates of JM Family are ‘our most important asset,’ he made taking care of each of you — in all ways possible — a top priority.”

According to the e-mail, JM&A Group is putting together “Memories and Recollections” binders, where associates can write down their memories of the company’s founder. In May, the binders will be returned to The Jim Moran Foundation, which Moran established in 2000, where they will become a part of the permanent collection of Moran’s legacy.

Two years after serving in World War II, Moran returned to Chicago and purchased his first used-car lot. By 1946, he had established a Hudson dealership in Chicago Heights, Ill. Later, he opened Courtesy Motors, which became the largest dealership in sales volume in one year.

In 1948, Moran became the first television sponsor to appear in his own commercials and first television advertiser in the nation to show an actual car on television. And in 1955, Moran founded Courtesy Ford, which became the largest Ford dealership in the world within 30 days of its launch. Moran was also the first to equip his cars with seat belts at no additional charge to the customer, and also established the first “on-the-spot” new-car delivery system that allowed customers to drive away in their new cars within 30 minutes of purchase.

Moran also started reconditioning cars in the 1940s and became the first dealer to offer “100-percent guaranteed” used cars covered by a warranty. After his Courtesy Conditioning Assembly Line at Courtesy Motors opened in 1949, the company reconditioned as many as 800 cars per month.

By the time Moran was 30, his sales topped several millions of dollars, and his commercials made him a celebrity throughout the Chicago area, where he was recognized as TV’s “Jim Moran the Courtesy Man.”

At age 46, Moran was diagnosed with cancer and was told he had six months to a year to live. Moran, who then retired to Florida to fight the disease, beat the 10-percent chance he was given to survive. By 1968, Moran was back in the business, opening Jim Moran’s Pontiac City in Homestead, Fla.

It was in that year that Toyota Motor Sales approached him with an offer to test drive its new Corona RT-42 Coupe. It was an offer that would change his life forever.

During preliminary meetings in Miami, Seisi Kato, executive vice president of Toyota Motor Sales, asked Moran what he’d do if he was shipped 10,000 cars. Moran replied: “I’d sell them.”

On Oct. 26, 1968, during his first visit to Japan, Moran was awarded the franchise to distribute Toyotas, and Southeast Toyota Distributors was born. By 1982, Moran’s 151 dealers sold their one-millionth Toyota. That number reached 6 million last year.

But as business grew, so did the need to better serve his dealerships. In 1969, Southeast Toyota Distributors revolutionized the industry with the 33-ASR Teletype, the first computer network to link dealers with the distributorship. Five years later, the CARNETT Computer Center (more recently known as ITS) was dedicated in Jacksonville, Fla. And in 1978, TLC Corp. was established to offer extended service contracts — the forerunner to what would become Jim Moran and Associates (JM&A) in 1982.

In 1981, World Omni Financing Corp. (WOFC) was formed and became the first captive automotive finance company for an import car company. Its primary businesses included Southeast Toyota Finance, CenterOne Financial Services LLC, DataScan Technologies, DataScan Field Services, and Monetrics.

Moran's discussion with Dr. S. Toyoda in 1984 led to the creation of the Lexus brand. Moran opened JM Lexus in 1989 in Margate, Fla., where it quickly became the No. 1 Lexus dealership in the United States. Today, the dealership is the No. 1 Lexus dealership in the world, and was the first new-car dealership to be honored by J.D. Power and Associates with its “Certified Retailer Award.”

In May 2005, JM Family announced the formation of JMSolutions, which creates and markets integrated software systems.

Today, JM Family, headquartered in Deerfield Beach, employs more than 4,500 associates through the United States. It was also ranked by a survey in FORTUNE magazine as the 41st Best Company to Work For in America, the ninth consecutive year it placed on the list. The company is also ranked by Forbes as the 18th-largest privately held company in the country, and was No. 9 on the InformationWeek 500 list of leading technology innovators, its fifth consecutive year on the list.

“As I see it, there’s not much in my life that people would really want to read about,” Moran wrote on the Jim Moran Foundation Web site, describing an autobiography he wrote from 1994-1996. “There have been ups and downs and not much action. I’m lucky to have spent nearly my whole life in a business I really like. Almost all people who hate their work fail at it. Some people love their work and still do badly at it because they don’t know how to maintain balance.”