The usual hallmarks of a successful dealership owner include years in the business, number of units sold, customer satisfaction and an exemplary service record. Add to all that committed involvement in community affairs and volunteer service. This is what drives Gary Ackerman, Gaudin Automotive Group chairman and president, every day.
And, it's those qualities that Time magazine, in association with Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and the National Automobile Dealers Association, honored earlier this year when they nominated Ackerman for the 2009 Time magazine Dealer of the Year.
As president of Ford Country, Ackerman was one of a select group of dealers from across the country recognized at the 92nd annual convention, held Jan. 24 in New Orleans. Being nominated is a highly prestigious and coveted tribute for new-car dealers. Recipients are among the nation's most successful auto dealers, but they must also demonstrate a long-standing commitment to effective community work. To narrow the field, a panel of faculty members from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan selects each finalist.
Chosen to represent the Nevada Franchised Auto Dealers Association in the national competition, Ackerman was one of 49 who were nominated from a pool of more than 19,500 applicants.
In fact, Ackerman is in an elite club of sons and fathers recognized as Time magazine Dealer of the Year award nominees. His father, 83-year-old Don Ackerman, was a past recipient of a Time magazine award.
"Carrying on the family legacy started by my grandfather, George Gaudin, who founded our Ford business in 1923, is a true personal reward," Gary Ackerman said. "I look at my involvement in the charities I support as something I have to do. Las Vegas has been so good to my family and I owe it to the community."
Ackerman focuses on charities that support cancer research, Alzheimer's groups and children with special needs. His 25-plus years of devotion to local charities includes more than two and a half years on the board of directors for the Las Vegas chapter of The Lili Claire Foundation.
Besides his charity work, Ackerman has co-chaired the legislative subcommittee for industry trade reform with Nevada Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley and was a guest speaker on a public radio call-in show offering straight talk about the auto industry.
Ackerman currently serves on the executive board of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. He is also active with the Nevada Cancer Institute and Keep Memory Alive Foundation, a nonprofit support group for families affected by Alzheimer's and other brain disorders.
According to NADA chairman John McEleney, this year's nominees excel in business and work diligently at trying to help their communities. "They are the best of their profession and an inspiration to us all," he said.
The trip to New Orleans for the NADA convention was in itself inspirational, Ackerman said. The group chose the still-recovering city to host its annual meeting because it wanted to do something to contribute to its revival. But then, according to Ackerman, with the automotive industry in a crisis as well, it was doubly gloomy.
"Getting together as an auto industry was sad and New Orleans is sad," Ackerman noted. "A cab driver told us more than half the residents haven't returned. A lot of the buildings are still boarded up, but they're trying and working very hard to recover."
George P. Fritze, owner of Red River Motor Co. in Bossier City, La., won the 2009 Time magazine Dealer of the Year. Fritze, along with the three regional and 49 national nominees, including Ackerman, were also honored in the Feb. 2, 2009, issue of Time magazine.
The Gaudin family of dealerships includes Gaudin Jaguar Porsche Aston Martin, Gaudin Ford and Ford Country.