David Mills 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. Mills was chosen to represent the Iowa 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.
“It is the honor of a lifetime to go to work each morning knowing that my role is impactful and that others depend on me and my team,” nominee Mills said. “Mills Chevrolet has a strong heritage, but we remain forward-thinking and willing to grow and adapt to the changing industry for our employees and for our customers.”
A 1975 graduate of Moline High School in Moline, Illinois, Mills attended Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. He always knew he wanted to be a car dealer and follow in the footsteps of his late father, Mailen “Bud” Mills, who founded Mills Chevrolet in Moline in 1952.
“I was fortunate to grow up watching my father dedicate himself to building a successful dealership,” he said. “I am deeply inspired by the loyalty and devotion he demonstrated throughout his military service, his business career, and in his family life. In everything we've done, we've modeled his principles into the fabric of our company which forms our proud heritage.”
Mills began his career detailing cars at his father’s dealership in junior high school. In high school, he became an official member of the team and set out to absorb everything he could about the business, serving in many different capacities.
“When I became the dealer operator in 1984, I was grateful for the experiences I had both growing up around the business and working in many positions,” he said. “These opportunities, combined with a deep admiration for my father, contributed to the well-rounded appreciation I now hold for my employees.”
And that appreciation for his team drives Mills to continually improve dealership operations. In 2014, he was given the opportunity by Chevrolet to be the region’s flagship store in nearby Davenport, just across the Mississippi River from Moline. He broke ground on a new facility and in 2016, moved his dealership.
“Taking the leap to move and rebuild paid great dividends, and I am proud of the level of growth we have been able to achieve and strive to maintain,” he said.
With such a long history with Chevrolet, Mills has been asked to contribute to several regional marketing groups for the manufacturer to craft a consistent message among dealers who are the face of the brand locally.
Mills designs his philanthropic giving to represent the values of his dealership. He and his employees’ involvement in various causes has helped build Mills Chevrolet’s corporate identity as a positive, people-first business.
“We support numerous organizations, fundraisers, and local first responders, and we strive to improve our community,” he said. “I feel very rewarded in the ways I have seen my area thrive and grow as my dealership has done the same.”
One of his major contributions is to Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Moline, where he has been a lifelong parishioner. Mills made a major donation and chaired the capital campaign for a new middle school building at the Seton Catholic School on the church grounds. He most recently supported Sacred Heart’s Today Tomorrow Together campaign for restoration and updating of the historic 1919 building.
Mills has partnered with the Handicapped Development Center, which advocates for individuals with disabilities and helps them enjoy productive lives, by employing one of the group’s clients for four years. He also supports the Davenport Challenger League and its mission to bring the joy of playing baseball to physically and/or mentally challenged children.
To cultivate interest in auto industry careers, Mills provides resources to auto trades programs in area schools. “Our contributions allow schools to have access to modern vehicle technologies, onboard operating systems, and complex mechanical systems that would not have been available to students within existing school budgets,” he said.
Other groups Mills supports include Two Rivers YMCA, Figge Art Museum, Mississippi Bend Trykes which supplies adapted tricycles to children with disabilities, Uncommon Grit Foundation which supports military members, first responders, and their families, Tunnel to Towers Foundation as well as local school athletic programs, police and fire departments, fundraisers and many more.
“We take great pride in representing the Chevrolet brand and doing our part to make the surrounding community a better place to live and work,” he said.
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.”
Mills was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Bruce Anderson, president of the Iowa Automobile Dealers Association. He and his wife Gretchen have three children.