Article

Best of the Best

Dealers honor their favorite vendors, technology providers, trainers, and finance companies in the 12th annual Dealers’ Choice Awards.

July 2016, Auto Dealer Today - Cover Story

by ADT Staff

The Dealers’ Choice Awards program is back for the 12th year running — time again for dealers to reward their industry partners with national recognition. Sponsored by Auto Dealer Today, Dealers and dealer personnel vote for their favorite companies and identify the highest performers in a list of 34 categories. Auto Dealer Today is excited to announce that several categories have been added to the 2016 selection: Data Mining, Fixed Ops Training, Hiring and Recruitment, Special Finance Training, and Virtual BDC.

Company names must be entered manually by each voter. Providers were scored on the quality of the product or service itself, customer support and service, value, and whether the voters would recommend the company to another dealer. First-place Diamond, second-place Platinum and third-place Gold honors are awarded to the top three providers who were rated above the average score in each category.

“We are so proud to once again have the honor of hosting this prestigious awards program,” says David Gesualdo, publisher of Auto Dealer Monthly. “Congratulations to all of this year’s winners and many thanks to everyone who took the time to recognize their favorite industry partners in 2016.”

The staff at Auto Dealer Today extends its gratitude to the dealers who participated and the partners who serve the automotive retail and finance industry all year long.

And the Winners Are…

New-Vehicle Lead

Autotrader extended its first-place streak in the New-Vehicle Lead category, winning the Diamond award for the fourth consecutive year. The company has finished in the Top Three for the category every year since the awards began in 2005.

“Dealers need a platform to tell their unique stories by clearly differentiating themselves in order to attract consumers during the online shopping process,” says Jared Rowe, president of media solutions for Cox Automotive. “These Dealer’s Choice Awards show that our clients recognize that Autotrader enables them to reach the most engaged audience of in-market shoppers and helps them sell the right cars in the right way to the right people.”

Dealer.com pulled a three-peat, taking home second-place Platinum honors for the third straight year. Cars.com earned third-place Gold for the second time in three years; the company has won six awards in the category since 2005, including Diamonds in 2008 and 2011. 

Used-Vehicle Lead

Autotrader also notched a fourth consecutive Diamond win for Used-Vehicle Lead, a category for which it has finished in the Top Three in 11 out of 12 contests. Second place went to Cars.com, which also won Platinum in 2015. Like Autotrader, Cars.com has won 11 Used-Vehicle Lead trophies, including Diamond awards in 2011 and 2012.

CarsDirect, which has long been a major player in the Special Finance Lead category (see below), notched its first win for Used-Vehicle Lead, taking home the Gold for 2016 and edging out last year’s third-place finisher, eBay Motors.

“We’re constantly refining our used car product in ways that benefit our dealers, particularly in the areas of UI and customer engagement,” says Todd Dearborn, Cars.com’s vice president of sales. “We are particularly proud of how our used car product allows dealers to syndicate their listings across our network of more than 130 automotive enthusiast websites that attract 35 million monthly visits — something only CarsDirect offers.”

Special Finance Lead

CarsDirect was voted the first-place winner for Special Finance Lead provider — its first Diamond award in the category since 2011 — after winning platinum in the three previous contests.

“It’s been a huge year for CarsDirect in Special Finance,” Dearborn says. “Not only were we honored with a Diamond Award in the category, but we also joined forces with Auto Credit Express when our parent company, Internet Brands, acquired ACE in June. As the authority in the subprime space in our industry, we’re already hard at work developing innovative new ways to serve that market.”

DealerLink fell to second place after winning Diamond the previous four years while Auto Credit Express, now partnered with CarsDirect, won Gold for the fourth consecutive year.

“We are excited to join together with CarsDirect and capture the No. 1 and No. 3 spots,” says Auto Credit Express COO Jack Lintol. “Collectively, we are focused on giving the consumers a better experience and helping our dealer partners sell more cars.”

The Social Media Category has seen a steady increase in votes and providers as dealers increasingly rely on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to generate in-market leads.
The Social Media Category has seen a steady increase in votes and providers as dealers increasingly rely on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to generate in-market leads.

Digital Marketing

Digital Air Strike finished in first place for Digital Marketing, its first win in the category since 2013.

“It’s an incredible honor to receive the Diamond Award for Digital Marketing. We want to thank all the dealers who voted for us and are getting real value and ROI from our social media and lead response solutions,” says Alexi Venneri, co-founder and CEO of Digital Air Strike. “We are excited that we are able to help thousands of dealerships leverage the social sites to sell and service more vehicles every day.”

ELEAD1ONE took second place after earning Platinum in 2014 and Gold last year. eBizAutos, which took home the Diamond award and has notched a win in the category in every contest since 2013, fell to third place this year.

Website

eBizAutos won the Diamond award for Website provider after settling for second place in seven of the past eight contests; the company also won Diamond in 2012. VinSolutions moved up to Platinum status after winning Gold last year.

Earlier this year, the Dealer.com platform became the primary website platform for Cox Automotive, and all current VinSolutions website clients are being migrated to Dealer.com, which won the Gold award for 2016 after taking home the Diamond in the previous three contests.

“These awards recognize just a few of our tools that capitalize on digital technology to improve the customer experience and help our dealers better engage with today’s car shoppers,” says Wayne Pastore, senior vice president of Dealer.com, which also took home awards in three other categories.

Chat

ActivEngage won its fourth consecutive Diamond award for Chat provider, a category the company has dominated since it was introduced, settling for second place only once since 2011.

“Our primary focus at ActivEngage is to exceed the needs of our customers, which is why we’re committed to innovating our products and services,” says CEO Todd Smith. “Being voted the Dealers’ Choice top chat provider year after year confirms our premier managed services and software are true assets to the dealer community.”

Client~ConneXion and Contact At Once! finished in second and third place, respectively, for the second straight year. Client~ConneXion earned Diamond honors in 2012 and has finished among the Top Three every year since the Chat category was introduced.

Mobile Media

Dealer.com snagged the Diamond award for Mobile Media, its second first-place finish since the category was introduced in 2013. eBizAutos took second place after winning three consecutive Diamond awards, while Dealer Synergy earned Gold honors for the second straight year.

Social Media Management

The Social Media Management category was introduced in 2013 but failed to yield any winners until last year, when Naked Lime, Ally and Driving Sales took home the first-, second- and third-place trophies. In this year’s contest, Ally moved up to Diamond status.

“On behalf of the entire Ally team, I’d like to thank the dealer community for selecting us for six Dealers’ Choice Awards this year,” says Tim Russi, the company’s president of auto finance. “We work hard to provide our dealers with the most innovative products and services in the marketplace, along with excellent training and support, and it’s great to be recognized for our efforts.”

Naked Lime fell to second place while DealerClickz won its first Dealers’ Choice Award by edging out Driving Sales for Gold honors.

“Car shoppers increasingly turn to their social networks for advice on what car to buy and where to buy it,” says Chris Walsh, vice president at Naked Lime. “Our social media services help dealers tap into those networks in order to reach shoppers and build lasting relationships that can, ultimately, increase sales.”

Reputation Management

Dominion Dealer Solutions won the Diamond award for Reputation Management, the company’s second consecutive first-place win in the category.

“The Dominion Digital team is so proud of this award. We have a true passion for social media and love working with our dealership partners,” says Michael Sos, director of digital strategies for Dominion Dealer Solutions. “This award means a lot to our software development, services group, and product team who have put years of work into Prime Response and the Dominion Digital Platform.”

Second-place honors went to CDK Global, its first win in the category since it was introduced in 2013.

“Today’s dealer needs the tools and resources to effectively manage their online reputation,” says Max Steckler, vice president at CDK Global. “We’re thrilled that our solutions are resonating with dealers. It’s a privilege to receive their recognition and this honor.”

A rare Dealers’ Choice Awards tie was scored by DealerRefresh and DMEautomotive, each of which earned a Gold award. It was the first Top Three finish for both companies in the Reputation Management category, which was introduced in 2013.

Direct Mail

ProMax Unlimited notched its third straight Diamond award for Direct Mail, a category it didn’t even compete in until 2014.

“It’s great to see that dealers continue to recognize our direct mail capabilities,” says ProMax COO Shane Born. “Our direct mail is not just about response rates. Results and return on investment have always been our top priorities, and that’s the reason we have so many long-term customers.”

Action Integrated Marketing won Platinum, its first award in the Direct Mail category, while Strategic Marketing took home the Gold award for the second straight year.

Virtual BDC (NEW!)

This year’s first new category is Virtual BDC, a category designed to recognize providers of dealer-branded business development centers. ELEAD1ONE was the only such provider to finish above the mean average score, earning Diamond honors and distinction as the only company to take home a trophy in the new category.

Online Inventory Listing Management

Dominion Dealer Solutions earned Diamond honors for Online Inventory Listing Management after settling for second or third place the past three years; Dominion also finished in first place in 2005 and 2007.

“We’ve worked hard over the years to build the biggest and best network of web destinations, as well as refining our inventory management offerings,” says George Nenni, Dominion’s vice president of operations. “This award recognizes the teams who have done this great work and the continued commitment from the dealers using our products.”

eBizAutos fell from first to second place, taking home the Platinum award and continuing a nine-year streak in the category, including seven Diamonds between 2008 and 2015. Auction123 finished in third place for the second consecutive year, the company’s seventh Top Three finish in the past eight contests.

Dealertrack, vAuto and FirstLook Systems each repeated as the first-, second- and third-place winners in the Inventory Management category this year.
Dealertrack, vAuto and FirstLook Systems each repeated as the first-, second- and third-place winners in the Inventory Management category this year.

Inventory Management

Dealertrack earned its second consecutive Diamond award in the Inventory Management category, one of three Dealers’ Choice Awards won by the company this year. vAuto took home its second consecutive Platinum trophy, continuing a remarkable nine-year run that includes five consecutive Diamond awards from 2010 to 2014. FirstLook Systems rounded out the categorywide repeat, winning Gold for the second straight year.

Hiring and Recruitment (NEW!)

The Hiring and Recruitment category was added to recognize companies that help dealers staff their sales, finance and service departments, and it scored two winners in its first year. GSFSGroup and its Hiring Winners platform took home the category’s first Diamond award.

“Hiring Winners assists our dealers in attracting the highest quality associates, and winning this award is a great honor and one we are very proud of,” says Steve Amos, president of GSFSGroup. “It adds credibility to our goal of being the full-service provider we want to be for our dealer clients.”

Hireology, which serves multiple industries, makes its first appearance in the Dealers’ Choice Awards with a second-place trophy in the new category.

“Hireology is honored to be recognized as the Dealer’s Choice Platinum award winner in the Hiring and Recruitment category,” says CEO Adam Robinson. “We’re on a mission to help dealers create a sustainable competitive advantage by building their best possible team, and we’re honored that dealers have recognized us as a top partner.”

Sales Training

Ziegler SuperSystems took home a third straight Diamond award for Sales Training, edging out any number of competitors in a key category.

“Forty years in the retail automobile business, I’ve achieved awards and reached many milestones, but nothing can be compared to the gratification and personal fulfillment of winning the Dealers’ Choice Diamond award for Sales Training three years in a row,” says Jim Ziegler, president of Ziegler SuperSystems.

Ally finished in second place, moving up to Platinum status after winning Gold in 2015. Joe Verde Group fell to third place after winning Platinum last year; the company has finished in the Top Three for Sales Training every year since the Dealers’ Choice Awards were launched in 2005, including five first-place Diamond awards.

Internet Training

Dealer.com earned its second straight Diamond award in the Internet Training category; the company has finished in first or second place every year since 2010.

“Digital marketing is the entry point into engaging today’s consumers in the car-buying process, and having the latest and most innovative tools to capture those shoppers — along with the proper training to help dealership staffs capitalize on these tools — is critical for the dealership’s ongoing success,” says Wayne Pastore, senior vice president of Dealer.com.

Dealer Synergy finished in second place for the second consecutive year after breaking into the category with a Gold award in 2013. Ally won its first Internet Training award this year, edging out last year’s third-place finisher, Kain Automotive, for Gold honors. Kain ended a seven-year streak that began in 2008 and included six Diamond awards.

Pressure from federal regulators on banks and finance companies has persuaded more dealers to invest in compliance training.
Pressure from federal regulators on banks and finance companies has persuaded more dealers to invest in compliance training.

Compliance Training

Introduced in 2015, the Compliance Training category promises to continue to heat up in the years ahead. This year, American Financial & Automotive Services (AFAS) moved up from second place to capture the Diamond award.

“Compliance has become a critical and dynamic part of our industry. American Financial has developed a great team of compliance experts to help protect dealerships across the country,” says Arden Hetland, the company’s president. “It is an honor to be recognized by our partners for the support that our compliance program delivers.”

United Development Systems Inc. (UDS) also moved up one spot, earning Platinum honors after taking home the Gold last year.

“The UDS mantra has always been ‘Doing it the right way is the only way,’ and we have trained and coached based upon that belief since our first ethics and compliance course nearly 15 years ago,” says Brian Crisorio, the company’s vice president of marketing.

Mosaic Compliance Services edged out last year’s Gold award winner, Compli, to earn its first Compliance Training win after finishing out of the running in 2015.

“Mosaic is pleased to be recognized as the Gold-level winner in the category of Compliance Training, not just for the honor itself, but as evidence that dealers are taking the issue of compliance more seriously than ever,” says James S. Ganther, the company’s president.

F&I Training

United Development Systems Inc. (UDS) earned its fourth straight Diamond award for F&I Training, perpetuating a 12-year run that began in 2005 and has seen the company finish out of first place only once, in 2012.

“Being recognized for 12 consecutive years is a testament to our efforts to deliver quality material through a variety of mediums,” says Randy Crisorio, UDS’s president and CEO. “Of course, classroom instruction provides a foundation that leads to a coaching environment via webinars, our partner portal and UDS TV. Nobody offers a more rounded slate of productive ideas that drives top-of-class results.”

American Financial & Automotive Services (AFAS) took home the Platinum award after finishing in third place in 2014 and 2015.

“For over 35 years, the team at American Financial has provided F&I training that is both compliant and profitable,” says company president Arden Hetland. “We take great pride in our trainers, who offer extensive dealership experience, resulting in real-world solutions for our students. We would like to thank the industry for this distinguished award, and we will continue to raise the standard in F&I.”

Reahard & Associates, which tied with AFAS for Gold in last year’s contest, maintained its grip on the third-place spot, its fourth win in the category in the past five years.

“I can’t thank our dealers and managers enough for this vote of confidence. Everyone at Reahard & Associates would like to express our appreciation for their continued support of our training,” says company president Ron Reahard. “Our entire team is committed to helping our dealers help more customers. This award will help renew our efforts to make this another record year in F&I performance and profits for our partners. Thank you!”

Special Finance Training (NEW!)

To no one’s surprise, DealerStrong and its CEO, special finance guru Greg Goebel, won the Diamond award for Special Finance Training in the category’s first year.

“It is truly humbling for DealerStrong’s team to be recognized as the Diamond award winner in the Dealers’ Choice Awards for Special Finance Training,” Goebel says. “We are thankful for our clients, who allow us to continue to excel in this area of the automotive industry while working with them to expand both their volume and profits in special finance.”

Fellow SF luminaries NCM Associates settled for Platinum honors while Ally took home the Gold.

Fixed Ops Training (NEW!)

The addition of another new training category, Fixed Ops, resulted in a Diamond award for DealerPRO Training.

“I have always believed the back end of the store is the backbone of the dealership. To be recognized as the top training company for Fixed Ops Training is an honor that reflects our passion for the people, process and profits that can be achieved in service and parts by always putting your customers first. Thank you to all the dealers, GMs and service managers who ranked DealerPRO Training No. 1,” says Don Reed, the company’s CEO.

Coming in second was CDK Global, a company that has launched a number of initiatives in the fixed ops space over the past several years, edging out Grant Cardone and The Cardone Group, who settled for Gold.

“We have a talented and innovative team of associates designing our Customer Learning. They recently introduced our new Learning Management System — part of CDK University — and performance support tools like WalkMe,” says Theresa Russel, vice president at CDK Global. “These dedicated CDK associates are focused on delivering transformative learning solutions that drive positive business results for our dealers.”

The F&I Products category recognizes providers who help dealers maintain profitability and ensure customers have the ability to protect their investments.
The F&I Products category recognizes providers who help dealers maintain profitability and ensure customers have the ability to protect their investments.

F&I Products

IAS has won every Diamond award for F&I Products since the category was introduced in 2013, which is no small feat in a highly competitive segment.

“It is an honor for IAS to be named the Dealers’ Choice Diamond award winner for F&I Products for a fourth consecutive year,” says Bob Corbin, president and CEO of IAS. “We have experienced rapid growth in recent years, and it is good to know that dealers recognize we will always do F&I products the right way — by bringing innovative products to market while maintaining excellent service levels and a commitment to our customers.”

RoadVantage took second place, moving up from Gold status in 2015 to notch its second consecutive win in the category.

“It is both a privilege and an honor to receive the dealers’ votes in this category two years in a row,” says Garret Lacour, CEO of RoadVantage. “We want to thank dealers nationwide, and we also want to acknowledge the RoadVantage team for their commitment to superior service. For us, it all starts with a top-notch team who are dedicated to providing a better customer experience, and this award tells me that our approach is working.”

National Auto Care took home the Gold award for its first win in the F&I Products category.

“This award says a lot about our agents and the support they provide for their dealers and National Auto Care,” says Tony Wanderon, the company’s president and CEO. “We could not be more honored to receive this recognition.”

CNA National, Protective Asset Protection and AUL Corp. finished in the Top Three vote-getters for Service Contract providers for the second straight year.
CNA National, Protective Asset Protection and AUL Corp. finished in the Top Three vote-getters for Service Contract providers for the second straight year.

Service Contract

CNA National continued its remarkable run in the Service Contract category, taking home the Diamond award for the fifth straight year. The company has only finished in second place once since 2005.

“We are grateful to be recognized by our dealers yet again,” says Joe Becker, CNA National’s president and CEO. “For a dozen years, dealerships have consistently found CNA National to be a premier F&I partner, and we work very hard to ensure that we live up to our reputation.”

Protective Asset Protection earned Platinum honors for the third consecutive year, its fourth such award since winning Diamond in 2011.

“Knowing these awards are voted on by dealership personnel makes this honor all the more special,” says Scott Karchunas, president of Protective Asset Protection. “This award and the recognition of dealerships are the result of the collective efforts of our hardworking employees and agents that serve the needs of dealers every day.”

AUL Corp. won the Gold award for the third consecutive year, edging out any number of providers in the service contract space.

“Being rewarded by our dealers in this way is a terrific feeling, and all of our AUL team thanks our dealers for this award,” says COO Jimmy Atkinson. “To have achieved it three years in a row is a testament to the hard work and team effort of AUL’s employees and agents.”

Service Contract Reinsurance

Portfolio earned its third straight Diamond award for Service Contract Reinsurance; the company has finished in first or second place every year since the category was introduced in 2008.

“We are greatly honored that our dealers have given us this top Diamond award for the third year running,” says Brent Griggs, Portfolio’s president and CEO. “Their highest satisfaction with our reinsurance programs is what we work for every day. I also want to emphasize that the award was earned from the combined efforts of our agents, managing directors, reinsurance specialists and our home office team.”

The Platinum award went to GSFSGroup, which finished in third place in the past three contests.

“Winning this award for the fourth consecutive year instills great corporate pride in our associates and recognizes the hard work they put in every day and every year to continue to achieve success,” says Steve Amos, president of GSFSGroup. “Furthermore, it is validation that our reinsurance programs offer our dealers expert administration and provide the widest range of options in the industry and the ability to better plan for their future. We are excited and honored to move up to the Platinum level this year!”

CNA National fell to third place in this year’s contest after winning Platinum in 2014 and 2015; the company has won three Diamond awards in the Service Contract Reinsurance category and hasn’t finished outside the Top Three since 2008.

“We owe a large thank you to our dealers, as well as our first-class network of independent agents and the entire CNA National team,” says Alan Miller, senior vice president of sales. “It takes true teamwork to provide the high level of service that our dealers and their customers have come to expect. Our success can be attributed directly to the dedication and commitment of our agents and staff.”

F&I Desking Software

For the sixth year in a row, ProMax Unlimited took home the Diamond award for F&I Desking software; the company has notched a total of nine first-place wins in the category and has finished out of the running only once since 2005.

“For over 20 years now, we’ve been known for our unbeatable desking solution,” says ProMax founder and CEO John Palmer. “But being voted No. 1 by dealers year in and year out is the truest form of recognition.”

Reynolds and Reynolds earned Platinum status for the third time in the past four contests, notching its seventh overall win in the category.

“Reynolds’ desking solution has become an important technology in helping the dealership’s sales team work deals smarter and faster, while also creating a smoother and more professional dealership experience for car buyers,” says Ed Pontis, Reynolds and Reynolds’ director of product planning.

Dealertrack took home the Gold for the second consecutive year, continuing a nine-year streak in the F&I Desking Software category that includes two Diamond awards.

“We at Dealertrack and Cox Automotive are honored to be recognized by dealers and to receive this prestigious award from Auto Dealer Today,” says Lori Wittman, senior vice president, F&I and CRM Solutions, Dealertrack. “Salesmaker is a powerful solution supporting a more efficient and profitable desking and deal structuring workflow. In partnership with our dealer partners, we are committed to delivering an integrated sales and F&I workflow designed to drive profits for dealerships and transform their business for future growth.”

F&I Technology

First introduced in 2015, the F&I Technology category recognizes providers of tools such as electronic menus, reporting, econtracting and esignature solutions.
First introduced in 2015, the F&I Technology category recognizes providers of tools such as electronic menus, reporting, econtracting and esignature solutions.

Introduced in 2015, the F&I Technology category was added to recognize technology providers that equip dealers with menus, reporting and econtracting, among other services. F&I Express moved up two spots to take home Diamond honors in the category’s second year.

“F&I Express is honored to win the first-place Diamond award for F&I Technology,” says Brian Reed, president and CEO of F&I Express. “We are proud to bring solutions which are recognized as leading the automotive industry into the Digital Age.”

MaximTrak earned Platinum status in the F&I Technology category for the second consecutive year.

“Thank you to all of the dealers who voted for MaximTrak again this year,” says Jim Maxim Jr., the company’s president. “We are honored and humbled by your vote and will strive to keep on earning your trust for many more years to come!”

StoneEagle earned its first award in the category, taking home the Gold and helping to knock last year’s Diamond winner, MenuVantage, out of the Top Three spots.

“StoneEagle is honored to be recognized by the dealer and technology user community as the recipient of a prestigious Dealers’ Choice Gold award in the F&I Technology category,” says Thomas Elliott, the company’s president. “Our outstanding team is committed to developing and delivering innovative software and providing unmatched customer service to drive maximum efficiency and profitability in dealerships.”

CRM

ProMax Unlimited won Diamond in the CRM category for the first time, continuing a five-year streak that includes three second-place finishes since 2012.

“We’re honored to win the Diamond Award for CRM,” says ProMax CTO Darian Miller. “We won the Platinum Award three of the last four years, and it feels great to get over the hump and win the top prize.”

ELEAD1ONE was forced to settle for the Platinum award after finishing in first place for five consecutive years from 2011 to 2015. This year’s Gold award winner, Reynolds and Reynolds, notched its first win in the category since taking earning Platinum status in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

“Capturing customer information and having it available to dealership personnel precisely when it’s needed are critical steps in effectively building lasting customer relationships,” says Ed Pontis, director of product planning for Reynolds and Reynolds. “Contact Management is a new CRM tool that crosses dealership departments and enables data to flow seamlessly so customer information and reporting are always current and up-to-date.”

DMS

Dealertrack earned a third consecutive Diamond award in the DMS category, adding to a legacy that began in 2007 and now includes eight first-place finishes.

“The DMS is the foundation for helping dealerships prosper in today’s marketplace and into the future,” says Sharon Kitzman, Dealertrack’s vice president and general manager of DMS. “As dealers are challenged to meet the ever-changing needs of the automotive retail market and support the work of their dealership teams, it is important that they leverage a DMS that will help them evolve and grow their businesses.”

Reynolds and Reynolds took home the Platinum trophy after finishing in third place the past two years; the company has won an award in the DMS category every year since the awards began in 2005.

“In product development, our focus is on helping dealers become better retailers. And a Reynolds system remains the retailing technology platform that enables dealers to do things well, and then find ways to do them even better,” says Kasi Edwards, the company’s vice president of marketing. “In fact, dealers tell us it’s the foundation to improving their business results, increasing employee productivity and satisfaction, and delivering a more rewarding, engaging consumer experience.”

Auto/Mate settled for Gold after earning Platinum status in 2014 and 2015, its first awards in the category.

“The most common feedback we hear from our dealership customers is that they really appreciate how we do business differently. At Auto/Mate, our goal is to keep our customers happy based on the quality of our software and support, not by the power of our legal teams,” says Mike Esposito, the company’s president and CEO.

Data Mining (NEW!)

The final new category for 2016 was Data Mining. ELEAD1ONE won the Diamond award, followed by Dominion Dealer Solutions and AutoAlert, which took home the second-place Platinum and third-place Gold awards, respectively.

“Being recognized with the Platinum award for Data Mining is a tremendous honor resulting from countless hours of dedication from our developers, support team and dealer partners,” says Alan Andreu, Dominion Dealer Solutions’ general manager of equity solutions. “This recognition is particularly meaningful because it reflects the powerful impact that DealActivator continues to have for our dealers.”

Manheim, SmartAuction and ADESA have dominated the Online Auction for Purchasing Inventory category since it was introduced in 2006.
Manheim, SmartAuction and ADESA have dominated the Online Auction for Purchasing Inventory category since it was introduced in 2006.

Online Auction for Purchasing Inventory

Manheim moved back into the No. 1 spot in Online Auction for Purchasing Inventory, a category in which it has finished in first or second place every year since 2006.

“It’s both an honor and a privilege to be recognized by our clients in this manner yet again,” says Tim McKinley, senior vice president of sales for Manheim, which also landed the Diamond award for Traditional Auction. “These awards are a testament to our commitment to helping dealers achieve results, and it’s exciting to know that they recognize the value we deliver.”

This year’s second-place finisher, SmartAuction, has had an even longer run, notching a win in every contest since the awards began in 2005. The streak includes five Diamond awards, six Platinums and one Gold. ADESA rounds out the category with its fourth consecutive Gold award; the company won Diamond in 2010.

Traditional Auction

Manheim earned a fourth consecutive Diamond award for Traditional Auction, its 12th consecutive Top Three finish. The streak includes nine Diamond awards, two Platinums and a Gold, and is unmatched in any auction category.

ADESA won its fourth consecutive Platinum award and seventh such award since 2006; the company won Diamond in 2012. The Traditional Auction category hasn’t registered three winners since 2008, when Independent Auction Group won the Diamond award and Manheim and ADESA ranked second and third, respectively.

Prime Captive Finance Company

GM Financial took home the Diamond award for Prime Captive Finance Company for the second consecutive year. Honda Financial Services earned Platinum honors, the captive’s first award in the category since a five-year second- or third-place streak from 2007 to 2011. The most frequent winner in the category is Toyota Financial Services, which has finished out of the running only once in 12 years. TFS took home the Gold after winning Platinum in 2014 and 2015.

Prime Non-Captive Finance Company

Ally earned its second straight Diamond award for Prime Non-Captive Finance Company after competing in the Captive category until last year. Chase Auto Finance earned its third consecutive Platinum award, the first company to do so in the Prime Non-Captive category since BB&T accomplished the feat in 2009–’11.

“It’s a true honor to receive a Dealers’ Choice Award for the third year in a row,” says Thasunda Duckett, CEO of Chase Auto Finance. “Our dealers are at the core of our business and we strive to help them succeed every day. We couldn’t be more pleased that they’ve voted to recognize us in this way.”

Wells Fargo won the Gold award this year, its first Dealers’ Choice Award since taking home the Diamond in 2014.

Subprime Finance Company

Wells Fargo finished at the top of the Subprime Finance Company rankings for the second consecutive year and the fourth time since 2008. Regional Acceptance held onto the No. 2 spot, taking Platinum honors and continuing an eight-year Top Three streak; the company has won an award in the Subprime Finance Company every year but 2008 and has taken home the Diamond six times. Capital One Auto Finance earned its fourth straight Gold award, the company’s eighth Dealers’ Choice Award in the past nine years.

Biweekly Payments

US Equity Advantage took home its second consecutive Diamond award for Biweekly Payments since finishing in second place in 2014.

“More than just biweekly, our dealer partners value the full lifecycle of customer benefits we deliver, from helping car buyers better afford their loan payments and purchase additional F&I products to trading out earlier and returning them to the dealer in a positive equity position,” says US Equity Advantage CEO Robert Steenbergh. “This award is recognition of the tremendous asset we provide in a highly competitive marketplace.”

SMART Payment Plan earned Platinum honors for the second straight year after winning Diamond in 2013 and 2014.

“We are thankful to the dealers, GMs, GSMs and FMs who voted for SMART Payment Plan — for the fourth consecutive year,” says CEO David Engelman. “We are committed to providing exceptional service to dealers and customers.”

Economic Advantages Corp. (EAC) settled for third place, continuing a four-year Top Three streak begun by Bi-Auto in 2013.

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By Jim Ziegler

A Faster Horse

By Jim Ziegler

Opening Observations

Over the Curb