ORLANDO, Fla. -
About the time many of these TIME Dealer of the Year Award nominees received a driver’s license at age 16, they were at a dealership working, too.
In the next group of profiles, these store executives all share what’s important to them — in and out of the showroom.
The awards program, which is produced in cooperation with the National Automobile Dealers Association and sponsored by Ally Financial, aims to recognize the nation’s most successful auto dealers who also demonstrate a long-standing commitment to community service.
All of these dealers are profiled on a special website for the award: allydealerheroes.com/nominees/all.
Auto Remarketing plans to share some of these nominee profiles from allydealerheroes.com between now and when the winner is announced during the NADA Convention and Expo that runs next month in Orlando, Fla.
Frank DeLuca, DeLuca Toyota, Ocala, Fla.
“At DeLuca Toyota, we attempt to treat every customer as an honored guest in our home,” nominee Frank DeLuca said. “My company slogan is, ‘Toyota makes the car … DeLuca makes the difference.’”
DeLuca, a Florida native, graduated from William R. Boone High School in Orlando, Fla., in 1964 and Orlando Junior College in 1966, where he earned an associate’s degree in business and was a member of Alpha Phi Epsilon. Since he was 16 years old, he has always had a passion for cars and worked at a dealership run by the father of a high school classmate.
From washing and detailing cars part time, he worked his way up to sales after college. “I had an interest in learning all aspects of the auto business,” DeLuca said. He was eventually named general manager of Williams Brothers Mazda in 1975 before embarking on his own dealership venture in 1978. At that time, DeLuca Toyota sold approximately 37 to 50 new and used vehicles a month, and today, it presently retails more than 4,000 vehicles annually, according to DeLuca. In December, the company will begin construction on a new state-of-the-art 73,800-square-foot facility equipped with a movie theater in the customer lounge, café, salon and rooftop putting green.
“It has been rewarding to have started my retail automotive career from a very humble beginning at an extremely young age and to be blessed to have developed those humble beginnings into a successful automotive business,” De Luca said. Never forgetting his roots, DeLuca focuses his altruistic efforts on giving children, families and charities the resources and opportunities they need for a brighter future. He has established several scholarship funds, including the Carole A. DeLuca Endowed Memorial Scholarship and the Frank DeLuca STEPS Scholarship.
DeLuca has been a member of the Ocala-Silver Springs Rotary Club since 1979, serving a stint as president and receiving numerous awards for his community service. He was named Philanthropist of the Year by Ocala Magazine in 2011 and received the In Honor of Excellence award from the March of Dimes for his work as chair of the March for Babies initiative. “It touched my heart in a way no other accolade has,” DeLuca said. “I witnessed the struggles of babies, and I saw hope in the faces of parents.”
He added, “Giving back not only feels good, but it’s also the right thing to do.”
DeLuca was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year Award by Barbara Miller, executive vice president of the Central Florida Auto Dealers Association. DeLuca has two children and five grandchildren with his late wife Carole. After 39 years of marriage, Carole passed away unexpectedly to heart disease in 2006. DeLuca has once again recaptured happiness with his recent marriage to his new wife, Michelle this past April.
Richard Diver, Diver Chevrolet, Wilmington, Del.
“I have always had a passion for the business and took every opportunity to learn as much as I could from the grassroots level, working my way up from the bottom through each department,” said Richard Diver, a third-generation dealer. “I've been very aware of — and committed to — maintaining the family legacy of not only being one of the leading automotive dealerships in the state, but, even more importantly, one of Delaware's most respected business names.”
Three days after Diver’s 16th birthday, he began washing and detailing cars at the family dealership, working there during summer vacations throughout high school and college to gain experience in each department. He graduated cum laude from Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, Mass., in 1979, and received an economics degree from Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., in 1983, where he was a member of Heorot/Chi Phi fraternity. After graduation, he began his fulltime career at the dealership.
According to Diver, under his management, the dealership’s employees enjoy recognition from General Motors for high customer enthusiasm and consistently receive accolades from the factory staff for their way of doing business.
In addition to these successes, the community’s response to a company tragedy stands out in his mind. “The most memorable event that I can recall in my 29 years of fulltime dealership involvement had nothing to do with recognition or award but the genuine outpouring of support from so many after the devastating fire that nearly destroyed our business in 2000,” Diver said. “From the moment we became front-page news, the offers of help from politicians, community leaders and, most importantly, generations of customers to rebuild got us through the darkest days in our company's history.”
And that’s a testament to Diver Chevrolet’s commitment to the Wilmington community, having supported various charities, as well as educational programs for area youth organizations. Diver received the Outstanding Leadership Award from Junior Achievement of Delaware in 2010, and he actively supports the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition and the American Cancer Society. He is a former member of the advisory board for the Ronald McDonald House of Delaware and has underwritten the Share a Night Holiday Tree Lighting for the past several years, which provides a free night for all families staying at the house that evening.
Diver was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year Award by Marlene Petrylak, executive director of the Delaware Automobile and Truck Dealers’ Association. He and his wife, Deborah, have three sons.
Gary Dan Futrell, York Gary Autoplex, Nashville, Ark.
“My relationship with my employees and their dedication to me and to this company has been the most rewarding part of my job,” nominee Gary Dan Futrell said of the dealership he inherited from his grandfather, York Gary. “To this day, like my grandfather, I hate being away from the dealership because it is just like home."
A 1985 graduate of Nashville High School in Nashville, Ark., Futrell likes to say that he was “literally born in the car business.” His grandfather and mentor purchased the dealership in 1966 and Futrell began spending time there as soon as he could walk. “I had an instant and early love for the atmosphere at the dealership,” Futrell remembered. He worked part-time washing cars after school and during summer breaks and sold his first new car when he was a senior in high school. Upon graduation, he moved into sales.
Futrell was soon promoted to general manager and, when he was 27, his grandfather succumbed to prostate cancer, leaving Futrell to run the business on his own. “When my grandfather passed away in 1993, the majority of our employees had been with him since before I was born,” he said. “They remembered me as a young boy and had watched me grow up in the dealership. They had taught me everything I knew about cars — how to drive them, fix them, care for them, sell them. Each and every one of my grandfather's employees stayed with me when I became dealer/owner and remained with me until their death or retirement.”
In the area of community service, Futrell continues to carry on the legacy of his grandfather, who was greatly admired throughout the area. He has contributed his time and leadership to the City of Nashville Chamber of Commerce, Rotary club, Howard County Airport Commission, Nashville Industrial Economic Development Commission and Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation. His work as a board member for the Howard Memorial Hospital resulted in recruiting new surgeons and securing financing for a new facility which helped save the hospital, according to Futrell. He also assists transportation and driver’s education at four local high schools and offers York Gary scholarships.
Futrell was named Man of the Year by the Nashville Chamber of Commerce in 2005 and was given a special community appreciation award by the city council in 2009 during a surprise, emotional ceremony that recognized his company’s challenges during the downturn of 2008 and 2009. “It was one of my most meaningful awards,” he said. "The other would be my children telling me that I am the best dad ever as I tuck them in every night.”
Futrell was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year Award by Dennis Jungmeyer, president of the Arkansas Automobile Dealers Association. He and his wife, Donna, have two children.
Edward Garcia, Garcia Infiniti, Albuquerque, N.M.
“The Garcia Automotive Group is dedicated to delivering the best overall customer vehicle sales and service experience in each and every market we serve,” said nominee Edward Garcia of his family’s business. “We view each consumer interaction as an opportunity to create a relationship and future loyalty, and not just as a single transaction.”
And it is that philosophy that has fueled the company’s growth from the family’s original business, Toby’s Truck Parts, to an enterprise that encompasses 15 dealerships in New Mexico and Texas. Garcia is a 1986 graduate of Albuquerque Academy in Albuquerque, N.M., and earned a bachelor’s degree in business from Southern Methodist University in Dallas in 1990. He started his automotive career in marketing and sales operations for Toyota/Lexus USA.
In 1993, Garcia returned to the family business as operations manager for Garcia Honda and, with his brother, Toby, purchased a struggling Infiniti dealership in Albuquerque in 1995, which they successfully turned around. “The next several years I spent in the trenches trying to develop and implement personnel, systems, strategies, relationships and facilities which would enable our little group to expand efficiently,” he said.
Garcia’s philanthropic efforts support educational, athletic and charitable programs in the communities his dealerships serve. He and his family are also committed to preserving the cultural, artistic and architectural heritage of New Mexico. To that end, he is a board member and on the collections committee for the Spanish Colonial Art Society at the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art in Santa Fe and a sponsor of the National Hispanic Cultural Center Foundation, hosting a golf tournament to benefit the group. His quest is to “accumulate, preserve and eventually display through public and educational resources unique and disappearing artifacts of cultural and historic significance related to the multi-ethnic heritage of New Mexico,” he said.
The Garcia Automotive Group also offers scholarships through Central New Mexico Community College and is working with the University of New Mexico’s Anderson School of Management to underwrite a student entrepreneurship contest. The company has been a major donor to the New Mexico Alliance for Hispanic Education Scholarship Fund and supporter of the United Way, 4-H, Children’s Cancer Fund of New Mexico, Children’s Opera at Santa Fe Opera and El Paso Zoo, to name a few.
“I have been given the opportunity to play a small role in the progress and prosperity of the families of our team members and our community,” Garcia said. “The ‘award’ which really means most in my life is being a successful father and protecting my family’s name and automotive reputation.”
Garcia was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year Award by Charles Henson, president of the New Mexico Automotive Dealers Association. He has one son.
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