APRIL 2024 • VOLUME 28 • NUMBER 9

Need for Speed: A timeline of Hagerty's first 40 years

By Craig Manning

Four decades ago this month, the Traverse City business community saw the launch of what would eventually become one of its most iconic success stories.

It was in April 1984 that Frank and Louise Hagerty started Hagerty Classic Marine Insurance out of their home basement. Forty years later, Hagerty is a publicly traded company with hundreds of employees in the Traverse City area alone.

This month, the TCBN celebrates Hagerty and the start of its fifth decade in business by looking back at what’s happened so far. Below, we’ve compiled a detailed timeline of how Frank, Louise, their kids, and a whole village of other employees built a boat insurance startup into the world’s premiere classic car insurance and lifestyle brand.

1948: The first seeds for Hagerty are planted when Frank Hagerty lands his dream job: driving a 1948 Ford Dunesmobile over the Sleeping Bear Dunes in northern Michigan. The gig doesn’t last long, on account of Frank not being old enough to hold a chauffeur’s license. As Hagerty company legend goes, Frank never quite gets over his Dunesmobile days.

1956: The Hagerty family enters the insurance industry for the first time when Frank starts a State Farm agency, simply dubbed Frank Hagerty Insurance.

1980: Frank and Louise go into business together as Hagerty Insurance Agency, described in Hagerty company materials as “a successful, independent general lines insurance agency.” Despite the name, this particular agency is not the same company as the Hagerty we know today. Frank and Louise ultimately sell Hagerty Insurance Agency to new owners in the early 1980s.

Louise and Frank Hagerty

1984: Unable to find suitable insurance coverage for their prized wooden boats, Frank and Louise Hagerty start Hagerty Classic Marine Insurance.

1991: The Hagertys add a new dimension to their business – in the form of a classic auto insurance department – and relocate to a new home at Grandview Plaza to kick off a fresh chapter. The same year, a young McKeel Hagerty – Frank and Louise’s son – designs a new logo for his parents’ company while working out of his graduate school apartment.

1995: McKeel officially joins the Hagerty team, coming aboard as vice president of marketing.

1996: Kim Hagerty, Frank and Louise’s daughter, leaves a successful law career to move back to Traverse City and join the family business. Kim would go on to serve as Hagerty’s legal counsel, co-CEO, and chairman of the board before retiring in 2014. She passed away in 2021.

1997: Hagerty makes a splash with its “Good Neighbor” print ad, which pokes fun at State Farm and its iconic Barry Manilow-penned “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there” jingle.

“If they were really a good neighbor, they’d refer you to us,” the ad reads, before presenting a comparison in annual premiums between State Farm and Hagerty. (A sample: Hagerty’s premium for a 1936 Ford Cabriolet at the time was $179 per year, compared to $623 from State Farm.)

“Big insurance companies just don’t get it,” the ad continues. “Collectors treat their cars like royalty. Which is why Hagerty can have such low rates for better coverage. So unless your insurance agent is also your brother-in-law, you’d be crazy not to call us.”

In Hagerty company lore, the ad stands as a major milestone, given the fact that it earned the company a cease-and-desist letter from the folks at State Farm.

“We knew people were starting to take notice,” an internal company timeline document proclaims.

1998: With 60 employees, 58,000 policyholders, 2,000 agent partners, and 50 auto events to its name, Hagerty executes another company relocation, moving from Grandview Plaza to the newly built River’s Edge complex. That site, the former location of Traverse City Ironworks, is still Hagerty’s home to this day.

1999: Hagerty endears itself to driving enthusiasts when a hailstorm hits the RM Sotheby’s Vintage Motor Cars auction at Meadow Brook Hall in Rochester, Michigan. The storm damages a storage tent on the premises, along with several vehicles set for auction, and Hagerty offers to help owners with their claims – regardless of whether they were insured with Hagerty or not.

That same year, one Collette “Coco” Champagne starts a job running Hagerty’s inbound call center. Fast-forward to 2024 – Champagne is one of the key leaders in Hagerty history, having served as senior vice president and chief people officer, chief operating officer, and now chief human resources officer and chief administrative officer.

McKeel Hagerty

2000: McKeel steps into the CEO role at Hagerty, a position he still holds to this day.

2002: Hagerty rolls out two new programs: the Hagerty Protection Network and the Hagerty Fund. The former is described by the company as “the first 24-hour, seven-days-a-week flatbed towing service exclusively for collector vehicles,” while the latter is a fund intended “to promote the preservation and growth of car culture through education scholarships, automotive museum support, and collector car safety programs.” Those programs are both known today by different names: Hagerty Drivers Club and the RPM Foundation, respectively.

2003: Hagerty makes its entry into the print media space with the introduction of Protection on Wheels, a quarterly newsletter for members of the Hagerty Protection Network.

2005: Hagerty launches its own holiday – Collector Car Appreciation Day – with the first event held at the state capital in Lansing.

Building 8

2006: A busy year for Hagerty! Some highlights:

  • The opening of Building 8 at River’s Edge in downtown Traverse City. That building, known for its cylindrical three-story glass showroom and the display vehicles that appear within, stands to this day as Hagerty’s most iconic hub.

  • The addition of Hagerty’s first-ever foreign office, Hagerty International Limited, in the United Kingdom.

  • The introduction of “Ask Hagerty,” a concierge service that helps members locate hard-to-find parts and get answers for other automotive inquiries.

  • The creation of Hagerty Youth Programs, starting with a youth judging program at the Barrington Concours d'Elegance classic car event held in Chicago. According to Hagerty, more than 13,000 kids and teens have participated in Hagerty Youth Programs since.

  • Debut of Hagerty’s magazine, which replaces Protection on Wheels.

2008: 24 years in, Hagerty has 280 employees, 330,000 members, 20,000 agent partners, and 700 events.

2008 sees the company’s entry into the charity space with the founding of Hagerty CARes, designed “to empower team members to serve the community in a way that is important to them by encouraging opportunities for volunteerism.”

Also this year, Hagerty launches Hagerty Cars That Matter. Now known as the Hagerty Price Guide, this manual stands today as the definitive pricing guide for classic and collector vehicles.

2009: Hagerty expands northward with the launch of Hagerty Canada.

The company also establishes the Historic Vehicle Association (HVA), with the goal of preserving automotive heritage as a part of American culture. Five years later, the HVA works with the United States Department of the Interior to launch the Historic Vehicle Register, which preserves key details about significant American automobiles in the Library of Congress. The first vehicle inducted? The 1964 Shelby Daytona Coupe CSX2287. Today, the HVA is known as the Hagerty Drivers Foundation.

The long-lost Dunesmobile No. 9.

2011: Hagerty rolls out the Hagerty Driving Experience, a program to teach drivers between the ages of 15 and 25 how to operate stick shift/manual transmission cars. Over the years, Hagerty has hosted more than 30 Driving Experience events, spanning more than 2,000 participants.

Also in 2011, McKeel tracks down Dunesmobile No. 9, the vehicle his father became so enchanted with while working at Sleeping Bear Dunes in the late 1940s. McKeel acquires the vehicle and brings it back to northern Michigan from New Mexico. Three years later, in 2014, Dunesmobile No. 9 wins best-in-class honors at the prestigious Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance in Florida.

2013: With 570 employees, 607,000 members, 37,000 agent parents, and 1,400 events to its name, Hagerty strikes up a U.S. carrier partnership with Markel, a global specialty insurance provider, making Markel the underwriter for Hagerty’s insurance policies.

Also in 2013, Great Place to Work and Fortune rank Hagerty on their “50 Best Small/Medium Places to Work” list, Hagerty opens an on-site employee gym called Ironworks at its downtown TC campus, and Ford approaches Hagerty to forge a partnership with the Hagerty Driving Experience – the first partnership with a major original equipment manufacturer in Hagerty history.

2014: Hagerty opens an office in Golden, Colo. and also moves into Germany with a value and appraisal firm called Classic Car Analytics. That same year, the business launches its annual nonprofit program, which has since given tens of thousands of dollars to local community partners.

Frank Hagerty, company co-founder, passes away at the age of 79.

2016: Long known as an insurance company first and foremost, Hagerty tweaks its brand positioning, summed up by the company as “For People Who Love Cars.” The lane change opens doors for Hagerty to reach a broader audience and expand its brand, “paving the way for new products and services in addition to insurance.” Around the same time, the mission of “saving driving” becomes a central tenet of Hagerty’s corporate mission.

2017: Another year of big launches, including the opening of a new office in Ann Arbor, the creation of a subsidiary (the Bermuda-based Hagerty Reinsurance LTD.), and the birth of Hagerty DriveShare, “a car-sharing community where classic car lovers connect with owners to drive unforgettable vehicles.”

The Ford Mustang Bullitt arrives in Traverse City.

2018: Hagerty gets national attention when it locates the Ford Mustang Bullitt, which had been considered “lost” for nearly four decades. Hagerty unveils the iconic car, which was driven by Steve McQueen in the 1968 film Bullitt, at that year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The Bullitt makes its way to Traverse City for a brief stint on display in the window at River’s Edge Building 8. Speaking at the time to TCBN sister publication The Ticker, McKeel Hagerty calls the Bullitt “the Mona Lisa of the car world.”

2019: A fever pitch of growth sees Hagerty publishing its first book (called Never Stop Driving), adding another magazine to its portfolio (the bi-monthly Hagerty Insider), acquiring one of its biggest events yet (the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance in Connecticut), and launching the Hagerty Driving Academy. By the end of the year, the company has more than 1,100 employees, more than a million members, and 2,500 events, and has donated more than $3.5 million in RPM Foundation scholarships and grants.

2020: The start of a new decade brings another new office for Hagerty (this one in Dublin, Ohio) and another major event acquisition (the California Mille), as well as the introduction of a brand-new offering for members: Garage + Social, a series of “climate-controlled, dust-free garages with 24/7 security, plus premium social space to gather with fellow automotive enthusiasts.”

The Hagerty team rings the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

2021: In what might be the biggest year in Hagerty history, the company notches numerous major milestones:

  • After a complicated history, Hagerty and State Farm team up for the creation of State Farm Classic+. The service, State Farm’s classic vehicle insurance offering, gets the label of “fueled by Hagerty.”

  • Following a complicated year for in-person programming in 2020, thanks to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Hagerty adds a slew of big events to its portfolio, including the Concours d’Elegance of America in Detroit, the aforementioned Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, and Motorlux, the renowned kickoff of Monterey Car Week. At its inaugural Amelia event, Hagerty unveils a splashy 29th addition to the National Historic Vehicle Register: the original Back to the Future retrofitted DMC DeLorean.

  • In August, Hagerty announces plans to become a publicly traded company, by way of a merger with Aldel Financial. The company officially goes public in the final month of the year, ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Dec. 6 to mark the occasion.

2022: Hagerty Marketplace, a digital auction and classified ads site available exclusively to members of the Hagerty Drivers Club, hits the web. Highlights since launching include a first-week $760,000 sale of a 2019 Ford GT and a 2023 auction for a 52-car collection owned by famed boxer George Foreman.

Hagerty continues to add marquee automotive events to its portfolio, including RADwood, a multi-location “celebration of ‘80s and ‘90s automotive lifestyle”; and Concours d’Lemons, a car show that showcases “the oddball, mundane, and truly awful of the entire automotive world.” 2022 also sees Hagerty acquiring the Broad Arrow Group, a renowned collector car auction house.

2023: Hagerty launches ECO, a program that allows vehicle owners and enthusiasts to calculate and offset their car’s vehicle emissions by planting trees. To date, ECO has offset more than two million miles worth of emissions and planted more than 50,000 trees.

2024: Co-founder Louise Hagerty passes away at the age of 88.

Hagerty celebrates its 40th anniversary. According to Director of Executive Communications Andy Heller, the company now insures approximately 2.4 million vehicles, boasts about 821,000 members in its Hagerty Drivers Club, and employs more than 1,700 people worldwide, about 500 of them in the Traverse City area. In terms of charitable impact, Heller said Hagerty CARes has supported more than 500 local nonprofits, provided $5.5 million in local community support, and volunteered over 100,000 hours.

Also in 2024, Hagerty announces its 2023 financial results, touting a 27% growth in total revenue compared to the previous year, as well as Hagerty’s first-ever $1 billion revenue year.

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