Article

2014 Dealers Choice Awards

The winners of the 2014 Dealers’ Choice Awards represent the industry’s best product and service providers as selected by dealers and dealership personnel.

August 2014, Auto Dealer Today - Cover Story

by ADM Staff

Welcome to the 10th annual Dealers’ Choice Awards, a program in which dealers vote to reward their industry partners with national recognition. Sponsored by Auto Dealer Monthly, voting for the awards is open only to dealers and dealership personnel, each of whom must list their favorite providers in 27 categories.

Each company name must be entered manually by each voter. Providers were scored on the product or service itself, customer support and service, value, and whether they would recommend the company to another dealer. To qualify for a first-place “Diamond,” second-place “Platinum” or third-place “Gold” award, a company must be among those that scored above the group average score in each category.

THE RULES

The Dealers’ Choice Awards are based on a survey that allows dealers and dealership personnel to vote for providers in a multitude of categories. Survey respondents are asked to cast votes only for providers with which they have firsthand knowledge and experience.

In addition to identifying their primary providers in each category, respondents must rate their providers in four areas: (1) the product or service provided, (2) customer support and service, (3) the overall value for dollars spent, and (4) whether the dealer would recommend the provider. The 2014 Dealers’ Choice Awards survey was open online throughout the month of May. Those who voted in at least five categories qualified to be entered in a random drawing in which two Kindle Fires were given away.

When it was launched in 2005, the survey was set up as multiple-choice, with a list of companies under a category from which to choose, plus the option of a write-in vote for a company that wasn’t listed. Starting in 2012, there were no multiple-choice options; respondents had to write in their primary provider for each category in order to vote. While this process did create some extra work in matching up companies based on differences in how respondents identify their providers, this eliminated some past concerns regarding write-in votes. In the auditing process, all votes were reviewed, scrutinized and cleansed for companies that received votes in the wrong categories.

As always, the sheer number of votes is not the deciding factor. What matters is quality, not quantity. Scores were totaled, averaged and weighted for each provider. Then the overall average vote across all categories was assigned a value of 100. Then the scores — including group averages and company scores — were adjusted accordingly relative to their position above or below the overall average.

Final placement is determined by raw scores. Ties can only happen if two nominees have the exact same raw score. The provider with the highest above-average score receives the Diamond Award, followed by the Platinum Award and the Gold Award, respectively, provided their scores are above the group average.

AT A GLANCE

  • 27 Categories
  • 52 Winners
  • 72 Awards
  • 23 Companies Won Consecutive Awards
  • 13 Companies Won More Than One Award

2014 FACTS AND FIGURES

ANNUAL WINNERS

(Award Winner Every Year

ActivEngage*

AutoTrader.com*

Client~ConneXion

CNA National

Joe Verde Group

Kain Automotive*

Manheim

Portfolio*

Reynolds and Reynolds

SmartAuction

United Development Systems (UDS)

*These companies have won awards every year in categories that have been added to the DCA after the award's inception in 2005.

MULTIPLE CATEGORY WINNERS

(Won More Than One Award This Year)

Dealer.com (5)
eBizAutos (4)
Dealertrack (3)
ProMax Unlimited (3)
ADESA (2)
AutoTrader.com (2)
CNA National (2)
Cars.com (2)
Capital One Auto Finance (2)
ELEAD1ONE (2)
Manheim (2)
Reynolds and Reynolds (2)
Wells Fargo (2)

TRIPLE-DIAMOND WINNERS

(Three or More Consecutive Diamond Awards in the Same Category)

CNA National
DealerLink
eBizAutos
ELEAD1ONE
Kain Automotive
Manheim
ProMax Unlimited
Regional Acceptance
vAuto

TRIPLE-PLATINUM WINNERS

(Three or More Consecutive Platinum Awards in the Same Category)

Dealer.com

DOUBLE-DIAMOND WINNERS

(Two Consecutive Diamond Awards in the Same Category)

AutoTrader.com (2)
ActivEngage
Ally Auto
Dealer.com
IAS
SMART Payment Plan
United Development Systems (UDS)

DOUBLE-PLATINUM WINNER

(Two Consecutive Platinum Awards in the Same Category)

ADESA
CarsDirect
eBizAutos
Wells Fargo

DOUBLE-GOLD WINNER

(Two Consecutive Gold Awards in the Same Category)

ADESA
Auto Credit Express
Capital One Auto Finance
The Cardone Group
GSFSGroup

NEW-VEHICLE INTERNET LEAD PROVIDER
Diamond: AutoTrader.com (Diamond in 2013)
Platinum: Dealer.com (new for 2014)
Gold: Cars.com (Platinum in 2013)

USED-VEHICLE INTERNET LEAD PROVIDER
Diamond: AutoTrader.com (Diamond in 2013)
Platinum: eBay Motors (new for 2014)
Gold: Cars.com (Platinum in 2013)

SPECIAL FINANCE LEAD PROVIDER
Diamond: DealerLink (Diamond in 2013)
Platinum: CarsDirect (Platinum in 2013)
Gold: Auto Credit Express (Gold in 2013)

WEBSITE PROVIDER
Diamond: Dealer.com (Diamond in 2013)
Platinum: eBizAutos (Platinum in 2013)
Gold: Dealer e-Process (new for 2014)

CHAT PROVIDER
Diamond: ActivEngage (Diamond in 2013)
Platinum: Contact At Once! (Gold in 2013)
Gold: Client~ConneXion (Platinum in 2013)

ONLINE INVENTORY LISTING MANAGEMENT 
Diamond: eBizAutos (Diamond in 2013)
Platinum: Auction123 (new for 2014)
Gold: Dominion Dealer Specialties (Platinum in 2013)

CRM PROVIDER
Diamond: ELEAD1ONE (Diamond in 2013)
Platinum: DealerSocket (Gold in 2013)
Gold: ProMax Unlimited (Platinum in 2013)

DIGITAL MARKETING
Diamond: eBizAutos (Platinum in 2013)
Platinum: ELEAD1ONE (new for 2014)
Gold: Dealer.com (Diamond in 2013)

MOBILE MEDIA
Diamond: Dealer.com (Platinum in 2013)
Platinum: eBizAutos (Diamond in 2013)

DIRECT MAIL
Diamond: ProMax Unlimited (new for 2014)
Platinum: Strategic Marketing (new for 2014)

SALES TRAINING
Diamond: Ziegler SuperSystems (new for 2014)
Platinum: Joe Verde Group (Diamond in 2013)
Gold: The Cardone Group (Gold in 2013)

INTERNET TRAINING
Diamond: Kain Automotive (Diamond in 2013)
Platinum: Dealer.com (Platinum in 2013)
Gold: Dealer Synergy (new for 2014)

F&I TRAINING
Diamond: United Development Systems (UDS) (Diamond in 2013)
Platinum: Reahard & Associates (Gold in 2013)
Gold: American Financial and Automotive Services (AFAS) (new for 2014)

F&I PRODUCTS
Diamond: IAS (Diamond in 2013)
Platinum: ECP (new for 2014)
Gold: Safe-Guard Products International (Platinum in 2013)

F&I DESKING SOFTWARE
Diamond: ProMax Unlimited (Diamond in 2013)
Platinum: Dealertrack (Gold in 2013)
Gold: Reynolds and Reynolds (Platinum in 2013)

SERVICE CONTRACT PROVIDER
Diamond: CNA National (Diamond in 2013)
Platinum: Protective Asset Protection (Gold in 2013)
Gold: AUL (new for 2014)

SERVICE CONTRACT REINSURANCE
Diamond: Portfolio (Platinum in 2013)
Platinum: CNA National (Diamond in 2013)
Gold: GSFSGroup (Gold in 2013)

BIWEEKLY PAYMENT PROVIDER
Diamond: SMART Payment Plan (Diamond in 2013)
Platinum: US Equity Advantage (new for 2014)
Gold: EAC (Platinum in 2013)

PRIME CAPTIVE FINANCE COMPANY
Diamond: Ally Auto (Diamond in 2013)
Platinum: Toyota Financial Services (Gold in 2013)
Gold: Ford Motor Credit (Platinum in 2013)

PRIME NON-CAPTIVE FINANCE COMPANY
Diamond: Wells Fargo (Gold in 2013)
Platinum: Chase (new for 2014)
Gold: Capital One Auto Finance (new for 2014)

SUBPRIME FINANCE COMPANY
Diamond: Regional Acceptance (Diamond in 2013)
Platinum: Wells Fargo (Platinum in 2013)
Gold: Capital One Auto Finance (Gold in 2013)

ONLINE ACUTION FOR PURCHASING INVENTORY 
Diamond: SmartAuction (Platinum in 2013)
Platinum: Manheim (Diamond in 2013)
Gold: ADESA (Gold in 2013)

TRADITIONAL AUCTION
Diamond: Manheim (Diamond in 2013)
Platinum: ADESA (Platinum in 2013)

INVENTORY MANAGEMENT 
Diamond: vAuto (Diamond in 2013)
Platinum: FirstLook (Gold in 2013)
Gold: Dealertrack (Platinum in 2013)

DMS PROVIDER
Diamond: Dealertrack (Platinum in 2013)
Platinum: Auto/Mate (new for 2014)
Gold: Reynolds and Reynolds (Diamond in 2013)

AND THE WINNERS ARE...

NEW-VEHICLE INTERNET LEAD PROVIDER

AutoTrader.com earned its second consecutive Diamond award for New-Vehicle Internet Lead Provider while Cars.com slipped from second- to third-place status and Dealer.com registered its first award in this highly competitive category.

“More and more, new-car buyers are utilizing the Internet to find their next vehicle, and their use of third-party sites to actively shop for those vehicles has increased substantially over the last few years,” says Allyson Estes, AutoTrader’s senior director of industry marketing and events. “Innovating to enhance the new-car shopping experience is a key priority for AutoTrader. We are excited to see that our dealer customers find AutoTrader.com to be the leading source that brings new-car shoppers into their dealerships, and we are honored that they chose to recognize us with this award.”

USED-VEHICLE INTERNET LEAD PROVIDER

AutoTrader also won consecutive awards in the Used-Vehicle Internet Lead Provider category, making it the only company in this year’s program to attain “double” Double-Diamond status.

“At AutoTrader.com, we firmly believe that we are not successful unless our dealers are successful, so we work diligently to ensure that we are capitalizing on every opportunity to connect our customers with in-market shoppers who actively engage with dealership information and inventory listings on our site,” says Allyson Estes, senior director of industry marketing and events. “We are honored to have the dealer community select AutoTrader as the leader in driving new and used shoppers into their dealerships.”

eBay Motors earned Platinum status, its first award in this category since 2010. Cars.com took Gold after winning Diamond in 2012 and Platinum last year.

SPECIAL FINANCE LEAD PROVIDER

DealerLink achieved Triple-Diamond status for the first time by finishing at the top of the Special Finance Lead Provider category for the third consecutive year. CarsDirect and Auto Credit Express held down the Platinum and Gold awards, respectively.

“On behalf of DealerLink, my employees and myself, we feel very honored and fortunate that our dealer partners have validated our mission,” says Tim Parker, president and CEO. “We know our dealers feel as though we truly are partners and that means a lot to me as an owner. … We know we certainly aren’t perfect, but I think if you polled our partners they would tell you that we do indeed stand behind what we do. If we screw up, we make it right.”

WEBSITE DESIGN PROVIDER

Dealer.com earned its second straight Diamond award in the hypercompetitive Website Provider category and its fourth since 2011.

“We are honored to be a Diamond recipient for the second consecutive year, and recognized among dealers and dealer personnel nationwide for delivering superior websites that deliver exceptional performance and user experience seamlessly across devices,” says Bob George, the company’s director of product management for websites. “Dealer.com-powered websites combine a unique balance of reach, inventory merchandising and user-friendliness to provide the best possible experience for every type of car shopper, backed by intuitive editing and analytics tools utilized by dealers.”


eBizAutos earned Platinum status for the second straight year after winning the Diamond award in 2012. Dealer e-Process took home the Gold medal, its first win in this category.

CHAT PROVIDER

The Chat Provider category has been a contest between the same three companies since it was introduced in 2011. ActivEngage finished in first place for the second year in a row and the third time in four years. Contact At Once! and Client~ConneXion swapped places this year after finishing in third place and second place, respectively, in 2013.

“It is an amazing honor to be voted the Diamond chat provider by the dealer community for the third time,” says Todd Smith, co-founder and CEO of ActivEngage. “We continue to work hard every year to help our dealers reach their business goals. Receiving this type of feedback is what continues to drive our passion to offer the most innovative chat services available to dealerships and OEMs.”

ONLINE INVENTORY LISTING MANAGEMENT

eBizAutos notched its third consecutive Diamond award in the Online Inventory Listing Management category, a contest in which the company has finished in first or second place every year since 2008.

“Thank you to the dealers for selecting eBizAutos for an award for the seventh year in a row,” says Vice President of Operations Jim Cunningham. “We are very proud to provide the industry with reliable, easy-to-use and effective solutions for so long. Inventory management is a key piece of the online puzzle and it has been a core part of our business since we started in 2001.”

Auction123 knocked Dominion Dealer Specialties out of second place by regaining Platinum status after finishing out of the running in 2013. Both companies have earned past Diamond awards in this category.

CRM PROVIDER

ELEAD1ONE took home the Diamond award as the voters’ top choice among CRM providers. The company entered the category with a Gold award in 2010 and has finished in first place ever since.

“We are extremely humbled and honored to receive recognition this year in winning two prestigious awards: a fourth consecutive Diamond award in the CRM category as well as a Gold award in Digital Marketing,” says Bill Wittenmyer, partner of ELEAD1ONE (div. Data Software Services LLC).

“Receiving such esteemed awards serves to solidify our commitment to empower automotive retailers with innovative solutions that provide strategic business advantages. Our most sincere gratitude goes to our clients who voted for ELEAD1ONE, and to Auto Dealer Monthly for giving them a voice.”

DealerSocket moved up to second place, trading places with ProMax Unlimited, which won the Platinum award in 2013 and took home Gold this year.

DIGITAL MARKETING

eBizAutos moved up to Diamond status after finishing in second place in 2013, the first year for this still-growing category. Last year’s Diamond winner, Dealer.com, slipped to third place while ELEAD1ONE earned Platinum honors.

“Thank you to the dealers for selecting eBizAutos as a Diamond award winner. Our team is proud to provide real ROI in digital marketing to help dealers grow their business and increase their bottom line,” says Jim Cunningham, the company’s vice president of operations. “Digital marketing is more important than ever, and getting great returns on investment is what sets eBizAutos apart. We are proud to offer solid solutions that are truly customized for each dealer’s needs and local marketplace to drive the most qualified leads.”

REPUTATION MANAGEMENT

Reputation Management and Social Media Management failed to name a winner in this year’s Dealers’ Choice Awards. Both were new categories in 2013 and are expected to grow in importance — and competitiveness — in the years ahead. Digital Air Strike won the Diamond award for Reputation Management last year. 

MOBILE MEDIA

Mobile Media also was a new category in 2013, when eBizAutos won the Diamond award and Dealer.com finished second. The companies traded places this year, with Dealer.com, a division of Dealertrack Technologies, moving into first place.

“Our central goal is to help dealers sell more cars, which is why our products and services are mobile-integrated to provide a seamless experience for dealers’ business operations and consumers’ car shopping needs,” says Bob George, Dealer.com’s director of product management for websites. “To be named a Diamond in the Mobile Media category is a testament to our long-standing commitment to delivering unparalleled products, services and technology.”

DIRECT MAIL

ProMax Unlimited crashed the Direct Mail party by taking home the Diamond award for its first win in the category.

“Our direct mail is not just about response rates — it’s about our customers’ results and return on investment,” says Robb Azaren, national lead generation manager. “This has always been our top priority, and that’s the reason we have so many long-term customers.”

Strategic Marketing rejoined the category this year, taking Platinum honors after winning eight consecutive Diamond awards from 2005 to 2012. There was no Gold winner.

SALES TRAINING

Ziegler SuperSystems earned its first-ever Sales Training award in a big way, earning Diamond honors and besting the Joe Verde Group, which finished in second place, and The Cardone Group, which took home its second consecutive Gold award.

“To be awarded the Dealers’ Choice Diamond award for Sales Training — and to be recognized by dealers as the best in my profession — is an elusive honor I accept with great pride,” says Jim Ziegler, the company’s president. “I have often said that it took me 38 years to become an overnight success. Like my predecessors who have received this award, including Joe Verde and Grant Cardone, I remain part of an exclusive fraternity/sorority of those willing to invest in themselves and pay the price for success. I would like to thank everyone who voted and expressed this confidence in me.”

INTERNET TRAINING

Kain Automotive earned its third consecutive Diamond award in the Internet Training contest. The company has dominated the category since it was introduced in 2008, finishing in first place six times and taking the Platinum prize in 2011.

“It is a humbling experience when dealers select us as their No. 1 choice for Internet Training,” says David Kain, the company’s president. “I think our one-to-one, customized training is what sets us apart and allows our clients to achieve remarkable results in their Internet and BDC operations.”

Dealer.com finished in second place for the third consecutive year, its fourth Platinum award in five years. Newcomer Dealer Synergy took home the Gold award, beating out a long list of past winners in this highly competitive category.

F&I TRAINING

United Development Systems (UDS) took home its second consecutive Diamond award in the F&I Training category. It’s the ninth such prize for UDS, which has finished in the Top Three in every year the awards have been held.

“Ten short years ago, in the inaugural Dealers’ Choice Awards, we were fortunate to have been named the Diamond award winner as the top F&I training company in the nation. To now be honored with our 10th consecutive award is extremely gratifying,” says Randy Crisorio, president and CEO of UDS. “While consistent and quality F&I training has always been the cornerstone of our F&I Performance operation, I never sought, nor expected, this type of national recognition. It is the dedication and commitment of the UDS team that deserves all of the credit and our clients who value so highly our efforts that we give thanks and appreciation. Without each, this simply is not possible.”

Reahard & Associates moved up to Platinum status in 2014, finishing ahead of Gold award-winner American Financial and Automotive Services (AFAS), which notched its first win in this category.

F&I PRODUCTS

IAS earned Diamond status for the second time in as many years, leading the F&I Products category since it was introduced in 2013.
“IAS is honored to be recognized as the Dealers’ Choice Diamond award winner in the F&I Products category for the second consecutive year,” says Bob Corbin, the company’s president and CEO. “We strive for excellence and innovation in all that we do, from managing accounts to claims support, and for dealers to acknowledge those efforts is extremely rewarding for our entire company.”
ECP joined the contest for the first time, winning the Platinum award and relegating last year’s second-place finisher, Safe-Guard Products International, to Gold status.

F&I DESKING SOFTWARE

ProMax Unlimited earned its fourth consecutive Diamond award for F&I Desking Software. The company has earned Diamond or Platinum status in every year but one since 2005. Dealertrack and Reynolds and Reynolds traded places this year, winning the Platinum and Gold awards, respectively.

“ProMax is proud to take home the Diamond award for F&I Desking Software for the fourth year in a row,” says COO Shane Born. “2014 marks our 20th year as an industry-leading desking solution, and the secret to our continued success is our commitment to improving each and every year. We’re honored to win this award voted on by the dealers, because the ultimate measure of our product is our dealer-customers’ success.”

SERVICE CONTRACT PROVIDER

CNA National continued its 10-year streak in the Service Contract Provider category, earning Diamond status for the ninth time after finishing second only once, in 2011.

“We are honored to be acknowledged by dealers as a top provider for the past 10 years,” says Joe Becker, CNA National’s president and CEO. “We have seen many transitions and trends in the industry during the past three decades, but our commitment to excellence has never wavered.”
Protective Asset Protection advanced to Platinum status after earning Gold in 2013 while AUL re-entered the category with a third-place finish.

SERVICE CONTRACT REINSURANCE

Portfolio regained Diamond status this year in the hard-fought Service Contract Reinsurance category. The company has finished in first or second place every year since the category was introduced in 2008.

“Respecting the dealer’s rights of ownership requires us to conduct ourselves with integrity and transparency to honor the dealer’s interests first,” says Brent Griggs, president of Portfolio. “We see ourselves as a trusted partner, not just a provider. This demands that we provide every available profit opportunity through diligent income development in the dealership and regularly scheduled analysis of reinsurance company performance. I think this goes a long way toward explaining our recognition in the eyes of dealers.”

Last year’s Diamond winner, CNA National, finished in second place, and GSFSGroup earned its second consecutive Gold award.

BI-WEEKLY PAYMENT PROVIDER

SMART Payment Plan won the Diamond award for the second time in the Biweekly Payment Provider category, which was new last year. US Equity Advantage earned Platinum honors for its first award in the category while last year’s second-place finisher, EAC, took home the Gold.

“Congratulations to our agents and advisors whose commitment to client and customer service earned this special recognition for the second consecutive year,” says SMART Payment Plan CEO David Engelman.

PRIME CAPTIVE FINANCE COMPANY

Ally Auto earned its second consecutive Diamond award in the Prime Captive Finance Company category. Last year’s second- and third-place finishers swapped places in 2014, with Toyota Financial Services moving up to Platinum status and Ford Motor Credit settling for Gold.

“Ally is honored to be recognized by auto dealers for the service level we strive to deliver day in and day out,” says President of Auto Finance Tim Russi. “We are fully committed to the auto industry and to delivering value for our dealer customers, and this award is a recognition of that mission.”

PRIME NON-CAPTIVE AUTO FINANCE COMPANY

Wells Fargo moved up to Diamond status in the Prime Non-Captive Finance Company category after finishing in third place last year. Chase took home Platinum honors after finishing out of the running in 2013, while Capital One Auto Finance earned Gold status, its first award in the category in several years.

“We are honored to be recognized by the dealer community we serve,” says Dawn Martin Harp, head of Wells Fargo Dealer Services.

SUBPRIME FINANCE COMPANY

History repeated itself in the Subprime Finance Company category, where Regional Acceptance, Wells Fargo and Capital One Auto Finance earned Diamond, Platinum and Gold honors, respectively, for the second straight year. It’s the third straight first-place finish for Regional Acceptance and the company’s sixth Diamond award since 2005. Wells Fargo has taken home two Diamond awards in the same span and Capital One Auto Finance has finished in the Top Three in six of the past seven years. 

ONLINE AUCTION FOR PURCHASING INVENTORY

SmartAuction moved from second to first place in this year’s battle for top honors among Online Auction for Purchasing Inventory providers. The company has earned a Top Three ranking in the category every year since 2005, a 10-year span that includes four Diamond awards.

“The Ally team is proud to be recognized by Auto Dealer Monthly for SmartAuction,” says Steve Kapusta, vice president of Ally Dealership Online Services. “Each day we strive to be an advocate for dealers through our all-in approach to the business, and there is no better feedback from our customers than this recognition.”

Manheim slipped to second place after winning three consecutive Diamond awards from 2011 to 2013, while ADESA won Gold for the second straight year.

TRADITIONAL AUCTION

Manheim earned its second consecutive Diamond award in the Traditional Auction category, the company’s seventh such prize in 10 years. ADESA held onto the Platinum award after winning the same prize last year and earning Diamond honors in 2012.

“It is always very rewarding to be recognized by our customers with a very significant award like the Traditional Auction award,” says Tim McKinley, Manheim’s senior vice president of sales. “At Manheim, we strive to cultivate strong relationships with our customers and it is great to see that we are able to help them achieve their desired goals and results.” 

INVENTORY MANAGEMENT

vAuto took home the Diamond award for Inventory Management for the fifth straight year and hasn’t finished below second place since 2007.

“vAuto is honored and proud to receive the Diamond award for the fifth consecutive year,” says Randy Kobat, the company’s vice president and general manager. “The award affirms our commitment to providing dealers market-leading solutions and performance-management support to help them sell more new and used vehicles. We are grateful that dealers have again selected us to receive the Diamond award.”

FirstLook earned Platinum status after finishing in third place last year; Dealertrack settled for Gold after a second-place finish in 2013.

DEALER MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

Dealertrack moved from Platinum to Diamond status this year, snagging the top prize in the DMS Provider category. It’s the company’s sixth Diamond award in eight years.

“We are honored that dealers have chosen us as the Dealers’ Choice Diamond award winner,” says Sharon Kitzman, Dealertrack’s vice president and general manager of DMS. “We would like to thank our dealer partners, who work closely with us every day to deliver an integrated DMS platform that is truly innovative and helps them transform their businesses.”

Last year’s Diamond award winner, Reynolds and Reynolds, fell to third place, while Auto/Mate took home the Platinum prize, its first award in this category.

Comment

  1. 1. J.M.Auto Inc. [ August 20, 2014 @ 02:27PM ]

    I love your site.Good information for all. Espesially when it comes to veicles

 

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