Meguiar's "Car Crazy" television show is an interesting case study for a number of reasons. In the midst of producing premiere car care products on a global distribution scale, here's a company burning through enormous resources and money to produce a TV show. However, it never once uses the program's air time to peddle its own products. Instead, the focus is on the people who make the hobby. One minute, Barry's chatting with the president of Ferrari, and the next, he's talking with your average Joe at a show-and-shine. As far as Barry's concerned, the common thread through the diverse spectrum of enthusiasts is their passion for cars, and he's as much in the business of perpetuating that passion as he is giving cars a stunning shine.
Those fortunate enough to have met Barry know firsthand that the persona he exudes on the air is no act. He's always upbeat, always smiling, and always genuinely sincere. In fact, it seems like there is an element of his enthusiasm that cameras just can't capture. In today's cutthroat business world, guys this nice-who are driven more by passion than by profit margins-aren't supposed to be this successful. Never one to take all the credit, however, Barry always makes it clear that he's simply carrying on the Meguiar family tradition.
The company's history dates back to 1901 when Frank Meguiar Jr., Barry's grandfather, whipped up his first bottle of furniture polish. Working out of his garage, Frank created the mixture with the help of his kids using an eggbeater. Since the first horseless carriages were made from wood, it was only natural that Frank made the transition to polishing automobiles. A whiz in the lab, he constantly pushed the envelope to create new formulas. He never sold a product unless he was convinced that it was the best of its kind, and that remains Meguiar's mission to this day.
After Frank passed away in 1950, his three sons Maurice, Malcolm (Barry's father), and Kenneth inherited the business. Maurice took care of sales and Kenneth oversaw production while Malcolm shared his father's gift for formulating. So innovative were Malcolm's potions that most of them are still in use today.
The company's legacy grew three-generations strong during this time, when Barry, born in Pasadena, Calif., started working summers in the mixing room and on the production line during grade school and junior high. By the time college rolled around, Barry was the company's one-man accounting department.
A tough decision confronted Barry after he graduated from college. The company's total yearly sales plateaued, and Barry had to choose between pursuing more lucrative job offers or the tough task of expanding the family business. Fortunately, Barry picked the latter and never looked back. He quickly assessed the company strengths and weaknesses, realizing that while few people recognized Meguiar's products, those who did were extremely loyal. At the time, the company's primary clientele were car manufacturers, dealers, custom paint shops, body shops, detailers, and the occasional hardcore car show buff. Although Meguiar's didn't sell directly to the retail market, word of the company's products spread quickly. Custom paint shops across the country often handed customers a bottle of Meguiar's to keep their finishes in tip-top shape. As more and more people witnessed the brilliant shine of Meguiar's waxes and polishes in-person at car shows, consumer demand grew. Since he didn't have the money to advertise anyway, Barry capitalized on this growing demand by entering the consumer market in 1973.
From there, the business flourished, expanding into other areas of the car-care market with products like glass cleaners and dash and leather protectants. Today, Meguiar's manufactures over 300 premium surface care products at its Nashville, Tenn., plant, including products for boats, planes, and trains. Sold in more than 92 countries, Meguiar's export sales are coordinated through the company's international headquarters in Hong Kong, and back on the home front, the company's corporate office is now based in Irvine, Calif. Additionally, Meguiar's serves as a consultant to new car manufacturers, offering advice and training on paint quality and paint correction issues.
Despite his successful business endeavors, Barry's contributions to the hobby extend far beyond glossy paint finishes. He vowed long ago to spend his time promoting the car hobby instead of his own products. Meguiar's supports more than 5,000 car shows and events each year. On any given weekend, you'll find Barry and his wife, Karen, traveling the globe to mix it up with common folks. They've been doing it a long time, and now camera crews follow their journeys to film their hit TV show, "Car Crazy." Barry still has his first car, a '57 Chevy that he continues taking to shows.
Realizing that cars often received too much of the attention, Barry created the Meguiar's Award in 1995 to honor people whose efforts have significantly impacted the hobby. Presented at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, nearly 4,000 enthusiasts attend to crown the Person of the Year for the Collector Car Hobby. A testament to Barry's sterling reputation within the industry, the award has quickly established a status of significant prestige, with past recipients such as Corky Coker, Jay Leno, and Robert E. Petersen. Although it has rightfully become the Academy Awards of the car hobby, it's just too bad Barry can't win the award he created. We just can't think of anyone else who has given more of himself to help perpetuate the hobby.