Remembering Eric Keller, 1981–2021

by Andrew Newton
15 September 2021 4 min read
Eric Keller was a go-to source for all things BMW.

It is with great sadness we share that Eric Keller passed away on September 1, 2021. Eric worked tirelessly over the years to establish Enthusiast Auto Group dealership as one of the premier collectible BMW specialists in North America, and was an irreplaceable resource on all things M. He was also incredibly generous with his time and knowledge, sharing insights and advice to help bring more awareness and education to his corner of the market.

Memorial contribution may be given to the BMW Car Club of America Foundation at The BMWCCA Foundation has developed a teen driver safety program called Street Survival to teach young drivers car control in unpredictable and emergency situations.

We profiled Eric in January and are re-sharing it, below. Our community is better because of Eric’s enthusiasm, and poorer with his passing.

Eric Keller does not exactly fit the bill of a social media influencer. His business, Enthusiast Auto Group (EAG), is a brick-and-mortar store known among BMW enthusiasts for having some of the best M cars on the market at any given time. It thrives on repeat customers and has a full-service shop. Yet an ever-increasing amount of his revenue comes not through the front door or the service bays but via the internet.

“The clear majority of our new business is coming through YouTube or Instagram, and that’s definitely a 2020 thing,” Keller said.

Insider has reported on the growth of online sales via digital-native platforms like Bring a Trailer, and the transition of traditional auction business—most notably this year’s Monterey sales—from in-person to virtual.

Keller’s Enthusiast Auto Group is a prime example of how individual private dealers are likewise adapting to the times.

Late last year, EAG, based in Cincinnati, Ohio, started to sell more of its inventory via YouTube presentations of specific cars. Since May 2020, the leads and sales generated by YouTube have become an increasingly important part of the business, and Enthusiast Auto Group has consistently had near-record months. “Overall, business has been fantastic. We have more cars than we’ve ever had, and more are being offered to us,” Keller said.

Eric founded EAG more than 20 years ago with his brother Evan. They focus on rarer, driver-focused BMWs from the automaker’s analog era, the 1970s to the early 2000s. EAG typically deals in the best-kept specimens of a given model. (One extreme example: A one-owner, 1272-mile M Coupe owned by a man so OCD that he rescheduled service appointments if it was raining.)

EAG’s curated inventory, along with its habit of fixing known issues before selling cars—“So we don’t have to deal with them when we buy the car back”—has earned it strong following, including many repeat customers. But Keller says it was historically hard to communicate that difference to a broader audience.

“If we just throw a car up on AutoTrader it looks like just another M3 out there for sale,” he said.

Keller started EAG’s YouTube channel two years ago, and while he posted occasional videos that resulted in occasional leads, he didn’t give the channel serious attention until late 2019. Of course, the events of spring 2020 would give him more time to devote there. Many in-person businesses were, understandably, wondering how they would survive the pandemic, but Keller saw opportunity.

“I thought, ‘Shoot, everybody is at home. What are they doing? Twiddling their thumbs?’” Videos with more focus and frequency followed, bringing a closer and more detailed look at EAG’s cars to car enthusiasts who, suddenly, had lots of time on their hands. Keller typically walks around a car has not yet been posted to the dealership’s website or Instagram feed, giving a sort of virtual tour with a rundown of everything he knows about it, from the mileage and maintenance history down to who the previous owners were and what they were like. He also goes over the car’s flaws and what EAG’s shop will fix prior to sale, and often spends a few minutes behind the wheel.

“I thought, ‘Shoot, everybody is at home. What are they doing? Twiddling their thumbs?’”

Eric Keller, Enthusiast Auto Group

These videos, which tend to net a few thousand views each, are in no danger of toppling Top Gear. But Keller notes he’s not trying to make money from advertisements or subscribers—he’s selling cars. And for that, the videos are certainly helping. “About every third video I put up featuring a specific car gets that car sold within three days.”

It’s hard to quantify how many collector cars sell through social media these days. Insider tracks online sales on several platforms, but our data doesn’t tell us if someone called a dealer after seeing a picture of a car they wanted on Facebook. That said, we hear it’s increasingly common.

Like it or not, the internet has assumed a much bigger role in how we buy, sell, and shop for collector cars. That trend has been in effect for a long time—at least since eBay motors launched in 2000—and the COVID-19 pandemic supercharged it. Even when personal inspections, test drives, and handshakes become safe again, it’s safe to say that pixels, videos, and direct messages will continue to loom ever larger in the process of buying a collector car.

It may not show through the streams of data that inform many stories on Insider, and it may not make the headlines like a record-breaking price on Bring a Trailer, but the established brick-and-mortar businesses that make up so much of the classic car industry can survive and even thrive in this challenging time.


  • Doug Baliko says:

    As a repeat EAG client, I can tell you that their cars are far and away better then your average run of the mill car. When I buy from EAG I know that all maintenance is up to date, and more than likely has been performed early so that I won’t have to mess with bringing the car up to snuff after purchase. I can look at a car online and know that if I buy it, it’s going to be all there with zero issues. And being 1000 miles from where they are in Ohio, this is important. Obviously, I have to pay a premium for this. But if I were to pay “X” for an “any” car, and have to put “Y” into it to bring it up to a level that I want it, I would rather start off paying “Y” to EAG and be able to enjoy it immediately with any concern. I love their business model.

  • OldFordMan says:

    The norm now is dealers (used especially) on all the sales and auction sites. Ebay, Hemmings, BAT and the finder-sites like Carfax, Cargurus, Auto Trader, etc. are flooded with selling offers. Some even “giving” free shipping!

  • Brian Aust says:

    Just a shocking, terrible loss..

    Eric was THE man who was at the top of BMW M enthusiasm and marketing, especially. People oft complained about EAG driving prices up but the reality is that Eric was a visionary and saw what was coming in every aspect of BMW values and collection habits.

    He knew his stuff, was always friendly and kind and had a network of friends and clients that is second to none.

    I hope the EAG family carries on his incredible legacy in a way that would make him proud.

  • Steve Clinton says:

    It doesn’t say, but I’m guessing he was younger than me, which scares the bejesus out of me. My thoughts to his family.

  • Fabian says:

    Just hearing of Eric Kelley’s passing.
    I enjoyed watching his YouTube videos .
    My condolences to his family & friends.

  • Fabian says:

    Just hearing of Eric Keller’s passing.
    I enjoyed watching his YouTube videos .
    My condolences to his family & friends.

  • Tom Tarzian says:

    Eric graciously treated me to one of the best days of my car life at EAG. His passing is so very sad. May our Lord have welcomed Eric into the eternal light of His face.

  • Brian Kushner says:

    Having been in the car business for close to 30 years Eric and I had formed a great friendship as well as have done some business together. He was beyond knowledgeable in bmw product as well as a super nice honest person. He had a great sense of humor and I have missed him every day since he passed. His brother Evan is a great guy who is thankfully carrying on the business he and his brother started many years ago.

  • Peter Testa says:

    Eric and I exchanged e-mails over the years and he was always so kind, generous, and forthcoming with knowledge. His passion for BMW’s was greater than anyone else in the business. I never even met him, but continue to mourn the loss our community has suffered. He was such an enthusiastic, fun-loving guy and it’s really a shame he passed so young.

  • Eric says:

    I’m so late to this! I’m actually freaking out. I hadn’t heard from Eric since his last text to me on Aug 10, 2021 when he asked me if I was coming to the EAG social in Monterey! He said he was sorry and that he was going to miss me when I replied I wouldn’t be there. I didn’t know Eric for very long but we hung out all 3 days at the Barret Jackson auction in Jan 2020 when we were each trying to “steal” a Paul Walker M3 (or as many as possible… we both left with nothing!!!). I subsequently bought an E30 M3 from him later that year. It was only today when I went down the Youtube rabbit hole when I ended up watching his interview at VINwiki re: the Travis Scott M3 while scrolling through the comments and read “Rest in piece Eric 🙏🏽 we all loved your stories and they’ll continue to live on” (1 year ago). Stunned, and not fully understanding what I was reading, I ended up finding out about his tragic death this morning. What a great guy. What great conversations we had. What a purist in the gearhead world. I was wondering why I hadn’t heard from him in a while and blamed it all on covid and busy schedules… Very sad.

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