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Cal Finds Roughest Road In 50 Years Of Car Sales

At 88, Cal Worthington still enjoys piloting his private jet.
Carrie Kahn/NPR
At 88, Cal Worthington still enjoys piloting his private jet.

For 50 years, California cowboy Cal Worthington has been selling cars with a jingle that simply won't leave people's heads.

"If you need a better car, go see Cal. For the best deal by far, go see Cal. If you want your payments low, if you want to save some dough, go see Cal, go see Cal, go see Cal."

And so on. His trademark was appearing with his "dog," Spot — not a canine, but some exotic animal. (Watch a version with an Orca here, and a tiger here.)

The stubbornly infectious marketing approach helped turn Worthington into one of the top auto dealers in the United States. Over the years, he became a folk hero of sorts. At 88, he's still selling cars, but the business sure isn't what it used to be, he says.

"This is absolutely, without a doubt, the worst time I've ever seen in the car business," Worthington laments from his 24,000 acre ranch, where he still often shoots four commercials a day.

As Worthington leads a tour of his home recording studio, he explains why, despite discouraging sales, he has no plans to give up the business anytime soon.

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Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on