Ben Keating 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. Keating was chosen to represent the Texas 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.
“I view the retail auto business as a calling,” nominee Keating said. “I find it rewarding to help committed and talented people become more successful in our industry. And I am passionate about representing car dealers in a positive light, while attracting younger people to our profession.”
Although Keating was born into a dealership family – his father and grandfather both ran Texas stores – he studied industrial engineering and earned a B.S. from Texas A&M University in College Station in 1994. After an internship in an insurance company that worked with car dealerships, he found a renewed passion for his family’s business.
“I was so motivated with what I saw at many of the dealerships we serviced that I decided I could make an impact in this business and be very successful,” he said. “I began selling cars in Austin, Texas, after college and due to my work ethic, I was named “salesperson of the month” during my first month of employment.”
Keating returned to his father’s dealership, Tomball Ford, in 1996 and began to study all aspects of the operation. With big dreams and big ideas, he left there after purchasing his first store. He acquired more and more dealerships, turning underperforming stores into successful businesses. Today, the Keating Auto Group encompasses 28 dealerships throughout Texas representing multiple brands.
“I am now lucky enough to call myself a third-generation dealer,” Keating said. “Even though I didn’t recognize it at the time, my family being in the car business had a dramatic effect on me. It gave me a head start mostly because of the mindset – I could envision the visible path to achieving my goals.”
And those ambitions also reach outside of the dealership walls as Keating is an accomplished racing driver who won the 2022 and 2023 GT-AM class in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, among other prestigious races.
“I have represented the retail automotive industry both on the track and off,” he said. “Racing provides a positive platform for our business, and it has proven to be a great way to attract people.”
In the area of community service, Keating is most proud of bringing Young Life, a faith-based organization for teens, to Victoria. He sponsors the Chick-fil-A 5K/10K & Kids Fun Run, benefitting Young Life Victoria
“My wife and I are on the founding committee and continue to be involved,” he said. “We started small with a few volunteers in one high school and today, Young Life Victoria is in three high schools.”
Keating is also committed to his alma mater, Texas A&M, and has established a $4 million endowment to support a technical sales minor and technical sales lab in the department of engineering technology and industrial distribution. He is also an advisory board member for the department.
“The retail automotive business has not received the level of respect it deserves in higher education,” he said. “I look forward to getting personally involved in speaking, teaching, and influencing perceptions of our industry.”
At the beginning of the school year, Toyota of Victoria holds the Back to School Bash. Keating’s employees help stuff backpacks with school supplies and distribute them to children in need who drop by the dealership. The kids are also treated to free snow cones and a complimentary haircut to start off the school year in style.
“It is an awesome event for the kids, and it is amazing to see how the parents respond to this gesture,” he said. “But my favorite aspect of this activity is seeing how much our employees enjoy participating.”
Keating also distributes 300 turkeys to his team during the week before Thanksgiving for them to give to families in need to ensure that everyone has a nice holiday.
Other groups he supports include the Vine School (educates children with autism spectrum disorder); Boys & Girls Club of Victoria; St. Joseph High School; Golden Crescent Habitat for Humanity; Victoria Economic Development Corporation; athletic teams; rodeos; and many others.
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 AllyDealerHeroes.com, 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.”
Keating was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Darren Whitehurst, president of the Texas Automobile Dealers Association. He and his wife, Kathleen, have two children.