James Davis 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. Davis was chosen to represent the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers in the national competition – one of only 49 auto dealers nominated for the 55th annual award from more than 16,000 nationwide.
“The most rewarding part of my retail automotive career is when I help others achieve their dreams or plant a seed to allow them to dream bigger than they ever did before,” nominee Davis said.
Davis earned a B.S. in industrial technology from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro in 1980. On a whim, he responded to an ad for a car salesperson in Kingwood, Texas, and found a career path that perfectly suited his talent for sales and love of cars.
“I also became aware that as a salesperson, my earnings were a direct result of my efforts and my ability to connect with people,” he said. “I began to consider how owning a dealership would be the key to a financial future with the ability to build wealth and bring others along with me.”
Davis was named sales manager and then general manager of Deerbrook Forest Chrysler Jeep in Kingwood, where he began to see his vision for the future take shape. “I had the opportunity to build a high-performance, high-integrity team with an understanding of needs-based selling and relationship building,” he said.
With the help of a Chrysler dealer/mentor, Davis was accepted into the Chrysler Minority Dealers Association (CMDA) program and was awarded Gulfgate Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram in Houston in 2002. Today, he is the sole owner of the dealership and has added Hyundai of Silsbee in Silsbee, Texas, to the J. Davis Automotive Group.
“I attribute my success in the auto industry to my sponsor who not only recommended me to the CMDA program but continued to be a great mentor and sounding board for me,” he said. “I also could not have done this without the support of my wife, who graciously and selflessly allowed me to spend long days and late nights at the dealership, especially when our daughters were just babies.”
Davis is grateful for the assistance he had early in his career from Chrysler and from his auto industry peers, and he continues to pay it forward by guiding others. He has served as president of the Chrysler Minority Dealers Association and is currently on the board of the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers.
“To help someone move from believing that a minimum-wage job is the best they can do to becoming a successful salesperson; to know that they can own a home and send their children to college – in short, helping them achieve the American Dream is what now gives me the greatest reward,” he said.
And Davis is proud to have built a work environment based on honesty, integrity, and caring about others. “My employees have fought with me in the trenches to make the dealership a success, and I want to do the same for them,” he said. “I share my success by offering employees fair compensation and benefits, which makes our business a great place to work.”
To that end, Davis holds monthly town hall lunch meetings to share news, celebrate employee birthdays and milestones, and offer a forum for associates to make business announcements. He also hosts an annual company family picnic, which features food trucks and games for entertainment. And he takes all employees to see the Houston Astros play during his Game Days initiative.
Davis is equally committed to his community and encourages his employees to get involved by sponsoring events at his dealership and beyond.
“We have supported more than 50 back-to-school supply drives in the Houston area in the past seven years and have adopted 25 local classrooms, for which we provide equipment and mentoring,” he said. “In addition, we host annual blood drives, toy drives and breast cancer screenings at our dealership.”
Other organizations that Davis supports include Perfect Connection, an autism awareness group that helps families by providing education and outreach, UNFC (United Negro College Fund), and the Houston Independent School District.
“Through our constant positive involvement in our local area, we have created trust between the community and our dealership,” he said. “Citizens know we are a business that genuinely cares about their health, education, and economic growth.”
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.”
Davis was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Perry Watson IV, president of the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers. He and his wife Marla have two children.