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Kelley Blue Book Founder Dies

The founder of the used car evaluation guide, Kelley Blue Book, died at 96.

Kelley died on May 28th at his home in Indian Wells, California.

Kelley first entered the car business in 1918 when he started working at his family’s car dealership.

He spent a brief hiatus from the company when he served in WWII as a member of the Navy.

When he returned to his family’s dealership, his job was to evaluate hundreds of used cars a month.

Current Kelley Blue Book President Steve Lind said, “Bob Kelley was a true pioneer in the automotive industry. His legacy extends far beyond the pages of Kelley Blue Book.

Here’s what Spectrum News reported:

Bob Kelley, former publisher of the Kelley Blue Book — long considered the Bible of used-car valuation — has died at age 96, the Irvine-based company announced Monday.

“For a time, he was the most knowledgeable used car mind in the post-war United States,” Charlie Vogelheim, Kelley’s son-in-law and also a former Kelley Blue Book editor, said in a statement. “He’d drive home at night in the oldest car on the lot just to better understand why it hadn’t sold.”

According to the Orange County Register, Kelley died May 28 at his home in Indian Wells in Riverside County.

Robert Sidney Kelley began working for his family’s Southern California car dealership, which was founded in 1918, at age 15, according to the company. He left to serve in the Navy during World War II, then rejoined the business when he returned home.

Per CNN:

If you’re wondering how much your car is worth, or how much to pay for that car you’re thinking of buying, there’s a good chance you’ll check

That’s short for Kelley Blue Book, and it’s one of the longest-standing sources for used car values there is. A man who was instrumental in its rise to prominence, Bob Kelley, died on May 28 in Indian Wells, California, at the age of 96.

The Blue Book’s origins lie in the Kelley Kar Company of Los Angeles, a used car dealership founded by Bob’s uncle, Les Kelley, in 1918 with a few Model T Fords. Wanting to grow his inventory, Kelley Kar Company circulated a list of cars it wanted to buy and how much it would pay for them. By 1926, that list turned into the first Kelley Blue Book pricing guide for used cars.

Long ago, Bob Kelley was a “lot boy” at the dealership run by his uncle and his father, Sidney “Buster” Kelley. He did things like filling tires. Eventually, he took charge of fixing up used cars and estimating their resale value, the kind of figures that would go into the paper guide.

By the 1960s, that book became the whole business. The family sold the car dealership and sold the pricing guide, separately, to a private investor, said Bob Kelley’s son-in-law Charlie Vogelheim. Buster and Bob Kelley both signed 40-year management contracts to continue running operations, though, he said.


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