Mooresville teen starts Used Car College

Max Geller was only 10 or 11 when he began researching which cars his dad should buy for the family's automobile dealership.

At night, after his marketing classes at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, Max, now 17, sifts through 10,000 cars on the Internet that will be auctioned at lots throughout the country the next day.

He puts selected cars on a "watch list" of ones his dad, Lee Geller, might buy while watching the auctions online. Lee Geller then retails the cars at the family's Southeast Auto dealership on Lugnut Lane, off Stutts and Brawley School roads at Lake Norman.

So it shouldn't surprise anyone that Max came up with another idea for the dealership recently:

He founded Used Car College, where other people will go to learn how to make money buying cars wholesale online and selling them retail.

"'Why don't we make a career out of teaching people a career?'" Lee Geller said his son asked him. "And especially in this economy and people learning to do new things, going back to college."

Students will learn in classes of up to 10 at the dealership. The first class, scheduled for Jan. 11, is almost full, Lee Geller said.

He said the dealership expects to draw 500 people to the college in its first year. They will stay in local hotels, eat at local restaurants and otherwise spend money in the community, he said.

Max brainstormed the idea after watching his dad give advice to several people interested in buying and selling used cars. Why not teach it on a larger scale? Max thought.

Lee Geller, 49, has bought and sold new and used cars for a living for 30 years. The Gellers, including Lee's wife, Wendy, and two other sons moved to Mooresville 51/2 years ago from Bridgewater, N.J.

Used Car College will have three instructors: Lee and Max Geller and Pete Rizzuto, the dealership's technical adviser.

Classes will be offered at least once a month in the beginning, then twice a month as enrollment increases, Lee Geller said.

Students can choose any or all of three courses at $3,000 apiece: a course on buying cars, a course on selling cars and a course on certification of pre-owned vehicles and reconditioning cars.

Max Geller will work only part-time at Used Car College during his four years at Johnson & Wales.

"Once he's out of college, I'm not saying I'm going to retire, but he'll do a lot more," Lee Geller said with a smile.