David Vignes, who is president of remarketing services at KAR Auction Services, believes that if you asked all 18,000 employees at KAR Auction Services, “Who is Jim Hallett?” most would correctly say that Hallett is chief executive officer and chairman of the company.
“But I can guarantee you that absolutely everybody knows Safe T. Sam,” Vignes said in an interview with Auto Remarketing.
As many people in the auction industry know, Safe T. Sam is the animated mascot of ADESA’s safety program, which is a course of short instructional videos that Vignes created. Now more than 75,000 people have been certified or recertified in auction safety through the program.
Vignes’ work on the program led to the National Auto Auction Association naming him as a Warren Young Fellow in February. The association also named Cox Automotive safety and environmental senior director Kenny Jones as a Warren Young Fellow at an awards ceremony that took place during the association's Safety Summit in Dallas.
NAAA stated in a news release that the honor recognizes Vignes’ and Jones’ instrumental roles in developing and promoting safety initiatives for the auto auction industry.
As part of the award, the association presented a $2,500 donation each in Vignes’ and Jones’ names to NAAA’s nonprofit Warren Young, Sr., Scholastic Foundation. A Fellow is a donor at that level, or someone in whose honor or memory a contribution is made in that amount to support the scholarship organization.
Vignes, Jones, and 111 others have now earned the lifetime distinction of being named a Fellow. They received a gold medal and a framed commemorative certificate. Their names will be engraved on a plaque of esteemed Fellows at NAAA headquarters.
The foundation was established in 2004 and has raised more than $2.3 million by awarding $52,000 in merit scholarships annually for full-time study at accredited institutions. The award was named in honor of Warren Young, Sr., who NAAA describes as a pioneer of the auto auction industry who retired after 35 years of service to his profession and NAAA.
NAAA president Chad Bailey said in a news release that Jones has devoted 26 years to safety. Jones has worked for the last 19 years for Manheim, where Bailey said he was “focused on building a culture of safety.”
A driver training program was one of Jones’ many safety initiatives, Bailey said, adding that the training program led to NAAA’s initial educational video, “Cycle of Safety.” It also led to safety leadership instruction and safety process evaluations, Bailey said.
Jones also oversaw a campaign in 2018 that resulted in all Manheim auto auctions becoming 100-percent safety certified, according to a news release.
“The course of short instructional videos has become the industry standard and, thanks to KAR generously making it available free to all our members, more than 75,000 people have been certified or recertified in auction safety,” Bailey said.
Commenting further about Vignes’ work on the Safe T. Sam program, NAAA stated that as Vignes’ cartoon image began branding the safety program’s materials, Vignes worked to increase the program’s impact by having Safe T. Sam make personal appearances at auctions. Vignes dressed as the character and toured the auctions. His visits began to go viral on social media, spreading the message of safer auctions.
“Vignes had a mascot costume made, and Safe T. Sam was born,” NAAA stated in a news release.
Vignes' work on Safe T. Sam was inspired by his 16 years as an executive with the Walt Disney Corporation prior to joining ADESA in 2007, and he told Auto Remarketing, “It’s amazing to see the power of a character.”
KAR eventually provided the program for free to all our members, “because we believe it’s the right thing to do,” Vignes told Auto Remarketing.
“When we started, it was an internal program with ADESA,” he said. “We never expected it would take off like it did.”