New National Independent Automobile Dealers Association president David Andrews received the President's Ring during the National Leadership Awards Banquet at NIADA's 71st annual Convention and Expo at The Mirage in Las Vegas last week.
The owner of City Auto in Memphis, Tenn., and other automotive enterprises succeeds 2016-17 president Billy Threadgill of South Carolina.
Andrews began his term as president with an address he delivered at the banquet.
"Are times changing? Definitely. We are all pioneers, we are all trailblazers and we are all visionaries. These are times ripe with opportunities, times for making the seemingly impossible possible,” Andrews said, according to a news release. "There are millions of low-mileage late-model cars hitting the used car market, and the availability of credit has never been better. Now is the best time ever to be a used-car dealer."
Andrews started working at his father's dealership as a teenager,,and at age 20, went into business for himself.
Now 65 years old, Andrews currently owns four retail dealerships, five wholesale auctions located throughout Tennessee and Alabama, a management company, a floorplan company and a finance company.
Robert Blankenship (second from left) and his wife accept the 2017 NIADA National Quality Dealer Award from Mike Stanton of NADA Used Car Guide, Cox Automotive's Shane O'Dell and NIADA CEO Steve Jordan.
Previously, Andrews has served on the NIADA executive committee as a regional vice president, senior vice president and president-elect, and is a past president of the Tennessee IADA.
At the Banquet, Auction Direct USA chief executive officer Todd Hoagey was also announced NIADA CPO Dealer of the Year.
The award recognizes dealers for the quality of dealership operations, the vehicle certification process and the number of CPO vehicles sold as well as the dealer's commitment to providing a better product and level of service to customers and the community.
Hoagey has stores in Rochester, N.Y.; Raleigh, N.C.; and Jacksonville, Fla. Each one ranked among the top sellers in the NIADA Certified Pre-Owned program in 2016, according to NIADA.
Additionally, in recognition of their efforts in generating new members for NIADA, 17 NIADA members were presented with the Crystal Eagle award.
NIADA names Dealer of the Year
In other new from the association, Robert Blankenship — owner and chief executive officer of Texas Auto Center in Austin, Texas — was named the 2017 National Quality Dealer of the Year by NIADA during its convention.
Blankenship was among 18 candidates judged on a variety of factors, such as contributions to the automotive industry, the association and community involvement.
The award selection committee included AFC chief operating officer Joe Keadle; J.D. Power Valuation Services vice president and general manager Mike Stanton; Black Book Automotive vice president and North American auction director Tim West; NIADA secretary and 2013 National Quality Dealer Joe McCloskey of McCloskey Motors; and Elgie Bright, chairman of the Automotive Marketing Department at Northwood University.
Blankenship began his automotive career in 1992 selling cars with his father, according to NIADA. By 1995, he was on his own, operating out of his father's insurance business in Austin, selling cars for cash to avoid debt.
"Even at a young age I recognized that debt can cripple a dealer's ability to run a strong business and provide quality service to one's customers," he said. "Texas Auto Center is rare in this industry to have grown so much with virtually no borrowed capital."
Blankenship added in-house financing in 1999 and began expanding.
He currently sells more than 4,000 vehicles per year at each of his three locations and has a staff of 96 employees.
Blankenship and his wife Erika have created a scholarship for the children of their employees.
The Blankenships are also involved in donating scholarships for students at local schools as well as civic and charitable organizations such as the March of Dimes, the March for Babies, the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, high school athletic booster clubs and area PTAs, according to NIADA.
Blankenship is a member of the Texas IADA's board of directors and legislative committee, as well as two NIADA Dealer 20 Groups.
"From the beginning, our philosophy has been to deliver a quality transportation opportunity to consumers who, for whatever reason, are disenfranchised from the automotive market," he said. "Our business culture is built on a foundation of respect for our customers and one another and the understanding that we are in business because of our customers.
"We do the right thing because it is the right thing to do."