Cody Haiar 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. Haiar was chosen to represent the South Dakota 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.
“As a local business owner, the opportunity to serve a community is a great honor, and I feel that we have made a lasting impact in Winner,” nominee Haiar said. “I wasn't born or raised here but giving this wonderful town my all has truly made it my home.”
Haiar is a first-generation dealer who launched his retail automotive career at the age of 19 at Lithia Motors in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where he started in sales and moved up the ranks at Lithia Dodge. When his dealership was purchased by Billion Automotive, he worked for two years in sales management, but his dream was to one day own his own dealership.
“I moved to Frontier Motors in Winner in 2010 as general sales manager with the intention of becoming a dealer myself,” he said. “I worked tirelessly to grow the small dealership to double its sales volume.”
And that strong work ethic was forged at an early age as Haiar grew up tending cattle with his parents on a daily basis, a job that required him to get up at 4 a.m. before school started and work well into the evening.
By 2015, at age 30, he and a partner purchased Frontier Motors and in 2022, they added a second store, Frontier Motors Ford in Winner. Today, their portfolio also includes two trailer dealerships.
“I fell in love with the business,” Haiar said. “I love the people I work with, the customers, and the cars. There are very few industries in this world where a college dropout can find so much fulfillment and success.”
He added, “All of my job promotions, sales records, and ultimately, purchasing a successful dealership with my type of financial situation required an immense amount of sacrifice and discipline.”
And Haiar had a great mentor when he started in the car business who told him to always strive to do what’s right for the employees, the customers, and the community – advice that he still follows today.
With such great regard for his chosen profession, Haiar joined the South Dakota Automobile Dealers Association as soon as he was eligible. He currently serves on the board of directors and on the NextGen committee.
“I appreciate the organization as a galvanizing force for the betterment of our industry in the state and nationally,” he said. “As a first-generation dealer, I offer a unique perspective and have pushed for greater access to education and training to help make our industry stronger moving forward.”
Haiar is also committed to his adopted hometown. He worked with the Rotary Club of Winner to bring Junior Achievement to the community in 2013. Since that time, he has been an in-classroom volunteer and a sponsor of the organization, which prepares young people for future success.
“Mentoring the next generation is so rewarding,” he said. “Six staff members from Frontier Motors also serve as volunteers, teaching valuable lessons and skills to the youth in our community.”
Haiar has also donated Frontier Motors vehicles for giveaways that raise money for important causes, including the Winner Regional Foundation (for a 3D mammography machine at the local hospital); Immaculate Conception Catholic Church (for new parking lot and building upgrades); and the Rotary Club of Winner (to help victims displaced by a tornado). And he sponsors the Frontier Motors Open, an annual golf tournament that provides funding for the Winner Country Club, a public golf course.
Other groups he supports include the local food pantry; Winner Area Chamber of Commerce; Tripp County 4-H; Tripp County Economic Development; and many others.
“Our civic and community activities have enriched our community in many ways,” Haiar said. “As a rural dealer, I have tried to donate in every possible way that I can to benefit a community that has given so much to me.”
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.”
Haiar was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Christine Erickson, president of the South Dakota Automobile Dealers Association. He has two children.