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Headshot of Barry Nelson, a 2024 nominee.

Barry Nelson

Nelson Ford Mazda
Martinsville, Virginia

“My on-the-job training in each department gave me the necessary insights and operational experience to manage a dealership and eventually lead our auto group."

Barry Nelson is one of a select group of 49 dealer nominees from across the country who will be honored at the 107th annual National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, on February 3, 2024.

The TIME Dealer of the Year award is one of the automobile industry’s most prestigious and highly coveted honors. The award recognizes the nation’s most successful auto dealers who also demonstrate a long-standing commitment to community service. Nelson was chosen to represent the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association in the national competition – one of only 49 auto dealers nominated for the 55th annual award from more than 16,000 nationwide.

“Seeing the personal and professional growth of our company’s team members has been undeniably the most rewarding aspect of my career,” nominee Nelson said. “We started at very humble beginnings and as we scaled to new heights, witnessing the progress of our team was invigorating.”

After graduating from George Washington Carver High School in Martinsville in 1975, Nelson started working at a Ford store in Basset, Virginia, owned by his father, G.R. Nelson.

“I learned the car business from the ground up and worked in every position at the store,” he said. “My on-the-job training in each department gave me the necessary insights and operational experience to manage a dealership and eventually lead our auto group.”

Nelson and his father began to expand their business footprint by adding franchises and acquiring stores. Today, Autos by Nelson encompasses multiple new-car dealerships in Virginia, representing Chevrolet, Ford, GMC, Honda, Kia, Mazda, Subaru and Toyota.

“The key to our success is our team members, who consistently strive to be better,” he said. “I am also thankful for the great mentors who have helped me along the way. Through hard work and determination, we have achieved so much, and we continue to grow.”

As a longtime member of his community, Nelson’s passion for sports drives his philanthropic giving. He coached American Legion Baseball for 16 years and continues to donate to the Martinsiville Community Recreation Association in support of the baseball program. He is also a board member and local supporter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

“Coaching and mentoring young people has given to me a platform to positively affect their lives in ways that I would not have been able to otherwise,” he said.

Nelson was also instrumental in creating the Patrick & Henry Community College (PHCC) baseball program, where he was a coach for five years, as well as leading the charge to build Hooker Field, a turf field used by PHCC baseball and the Martinsville Mustangs, a local team that competes in the Coastal Plain League.

“The program I founded has led to a vast expansion in opportunities for athletes and for the college,” he said. “PHCC has now grown to become part of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA), which has brought hundreds of student athletes to the school and has helped increase enrollment.”

Beyond athletics, Nelson has worked with the Martinsville Henry County Chamber of Commerce and the Henry County Industrial Development Authority to attract businesses and jobs to the area.

“Giving back to the community has been an honor,” he said. “Hopefully, our contributions will empower our community for generations to come.”

Dealers are nominated by the executives of state and metro dealer associations around the country. A panel of faculty members from the Tauber Institute for Global Operations at the University of Michigan will select one finalist from each of the four NADA regions and one national Dealer of the Year. Three finalists will receive $5,000 for their favorite charities and the winner will receive $10,000 to give to charity, donated by Ally.

In its 13th year as exclusive sponsor, Ally also will recognize dealer nominees and their community efforts by contributing $1,000 to each nominee’s 501(c)3 charity of choice. Nominees will be recognized on, which highlights the philanthropic contributions and achievements of TIME Dealer of the Year nominees.

“At TIME, we are proud to uphold the decades-long tradition of honoring automotive dealers who make a positive impact and show dedication to their communities through our TIME Dealer of the Year award,” said TIME CEO Jessica Sibley. “We are excited to keep this tradition of applauding these community contributions together with our partners at Ally.”

Doug Timmerman, president of dealer financial services, Ally, said, “Auto dealers nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to not only the industry but to their respective communities through volunteerism, sponsorships, and supporting charitable causes, no matter the market climate. Whether their clients are purchasing a first car or upgrading for a growing family, these selected dealers have successfully extended their relationships beyond the showroom and have been steadfast in driving their communities forward.”

Nelson was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Don Hall, president and CEO of the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association. He and his wife Patti have two children.