Max Lanman is in shock.
He's been suspended in the same state of disbelief — mixed with a healthy dose of elation — since early November when a spoof ad for his fiancé’s 21-year-old used car went viral and sparked a bidding war. CarMax bought the car last week for $20,000.
Carrie Hollenbeck’s green 1996 Honda Accord coupe — lovingly christened Greenie — was first listed on eBay for $499. Within days, bidding reached $150,000 thanks to Lanman's wildly popular satirical commercial that was posted on YouTube and then Reddit.
However, eBay "canceled the original auction in error," blaming the move on "unusual bidding activity" surrounding Greenie.
The couple was told that eBay could not restore their original auction item “so they asked us to re-list the auction, which we did,” the filmmaker added.
By this time, Lanman's video had caught the attention of CarMax.
“We’ve watched Max’s ad no less than three dozen times, and it never gets old,” said Laura Donahue, vice president of Marketing Services at CarMax. “It’s a funny idea that he executed really well. It went viral because it’s something that we can all relate to."
The minute-long commercial begins with an actress pinning up her hair.
"You. You're different," the narrator begins. "You do things your way. That's what makes you one of a kind."
The woman settles into the driver's seat and a fluffy grey cat, perched next to her on the center console, meows before crawling onto her lap.
"You don't need things. You're happy with who you are. You don't care about money. You have everything you ever wanted," the narrator continues.
The woman reaches over and pours coffee into a mug as she drives Greenie down a winding road overlooking the ocean. "Introducing a used 1996 Honda Accord," the narrator says in the slick advertisement.
Against the backdrop of a setting sun, the actress sits on Greenie's hood, parked on the shoulder of the road. The narrator concludes in his ever-so-serious tone that Greenie is "a car for people that have life figured out and just need a way to get somewhere."
The commercial ends with the tagline: "Luxury is a state of mind."
"Automotive ads tend to showcase their new models with these great beauty shots, and we loved seeing someone have a little fun with that concept while trying to sell their 1996 Honda Accord," Donahue said.
Taking inspiration from Lanman, who grew up in Los Altos, but now lives in Los Angeles, CarMax made a video and tweeted at him to get his attention.
His commercial created “a 1996 Honda Accord-sized hole in our heart and we just had to have it,” Donahue said.
"Hey @MaxLanman, you’re really good at selling cars. And we LOVE buying them. So, we put together an offer for you. It’s a real offer. Seriously! See for yourself," their tweet said.
“This is amazing. Let’s talk,” Lanman tweeted back.
The writer and director told NBC Bay Area that he was “really flattered” by CarMax’s “high praise.”
“In the video they made a 'legal and binding offer' for Greenie,” he said. “As part of their offer, they didn't just want the car — they wanted everything in it: the coffee maker, the mug, the cat, the actress's jacket, etc. I thought it was a really funny video and I was impressed at how quickly they turned it around."
CarMax offered Lanman and Hollenbeck $20,000 for Greenie. They accepted the offer that was valid for only seven days.
“This whole experience has been one continuous surprise and this offer was no different!” Lanman said. “We were really pleased to find a happy ending for Greenie, who served Carrie well for as long as she's been driving.”
But CarMax went a step further.
Lanman's paradoxical ad featured a cat who the audience fell in love with. Papa Puff Pants was not for sale along with Greenie. The actress, Anne Marie Avey, said her cat was “priceless” when CarMax offered $5,000 for it.
So the company donated that money in Papa Puff Pants’ honor to Kitten Rescue.
“Giving back to the communities in which we live and work is a key part of our culture, so since we knew we couldn’t actually have the cat, it made sense to make a donation in lieu of it,” Donahue said.
It was a no-brainer to contribute to a nonprofit in Southern California where Lanman lives and works, she said, so CarMax went with a volunteer-run organization that finds forever homes for felines in need.
Greenie will also find another home soon, Donahue said.
“Sadly, we will have to let Greenie go eventually,” she said. “Greenie will star in one of our wholesale auctions soon, and it will be fun to see what she goes for!”
On Tuesday, the couple drove to Burbank and handed over the keys to a car that Hollenbeck has driven since high school.
“I hope that whoever buys Greenie from CarMax down the road knows that luxury is a state of mind,” Lanman said.