As an engineering student at Stanford University in 1957, a young Chuck Haddad walked into a car dealership intent only on buying a car. Instead, he drove off the lot with a new career.
Haddad's bargaining skills had apparently impressed the staff there so much that the manager immediately offered him a job as a salesman.
"Within four months he became a sales manager. Within a year, the general manager," said Ali Bakoo, a family friend who manages advertising for the Haddads' Bakersfield car dealerships.
Haddad died Tuesday at the age of 85 from complications from congestive heart failure, his family said.
He was remembered Wednesday as a generous man and good businessman, a father figure who in 2016 won the Kern County Republican Party's Lifetime Achievement Award.
"He was a good human being," said Bakersfield car dealership owner Masoud Bashirtash, whose family has partnered with Haddad and who looked up to Haddad as a father. "Very honest, straightforward, good man, very kind, very good heart."
After growing up in Lebanon, Haddad moved to the United States to attend college. Finding Indiana too cold, however, he moved to California, and that's where he got his start in vehicle sales.
Haddad opened his first dealership, East Los Angeles Dodge, in 1973. A year later he opened Haddad Dodge in Bakersfield.
By the time of his death, Haddad and his sons owned not only the city's Dodge dealership but also Haddad Kia, as well as ownership stakes in Nissan of Bakersfield, BMW of Bakersfield and Bakersfield Chrysler Jeep FIAT.
He became prominent within his field. Invited to Washington, D.C., to lobby on behalf of car dealerships, he once won an important court case giving car dealerships the right to allocate certain financial expenses for tax purposes.
Haddad was a longtime member of the National Automobile Dealer Association, the California New Car Dealer Association and the Bakersfield New Car Dealer Association.
Locally, he served on boards including Cal State Bakersfield's business advisory panel, the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce, the Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Kern County Museum and the Petroleum Club.
Through the years he contributed to many charitable causes. They include research for juvenile diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, cancer and leukemia.
Haddad's wife, Inger, died in 1999, and his son Jeff died in 2017. He is survived by son James and his wife, Lisa; son John Haddad and Meredith Carter; Jeff's wife Tina; and six grandchildren: Michael Haddad, Alexandria Weatherford and her husband Ryan, Ryan Haddad, Jake Haddad, Josh Haddad and Maci Haddad.
A celebration of life service will be announced later this week, Bakoo said on behalf of the Haddad family. Flowers may be sent to Haddad Dodge at 3000 Harris Road.