Michael Ettleson 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. Ettleson was chosen to represent the Illinois 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 have been fortunate to have good people support me in business, a loving wife of 42 years, and a wonderful family,” nominee Ettleson said. “An Ettleson dealership has been in the Chicago area since 1968, and I am proud to continue our family’s legacy of employee longevity, honesty in pricing, and outstanding service to our customers.”
Ettleson earned a B.S. in accounting from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 1980. After working for two years at a CPA firm in Chicago, he returned to the Chevrolet dealership owned by his father, Maurice, in Elmhurst, Illinois, to learn all aspects of the retail auto business.
“I started working as a porter at the store when I was 13 years old,” he said. “Throughout high school and college, I also helped out in the dealership’s accounting office.”
When he returned to the business full-time, Ettleson moved through all departments, from parts to service to F&I (Finance & Insurance). He soon took on leadership roles, including office manager at a Cadillac dealership owned by his father, and eventually he and a partner purchased the business. Today, he is the sole owner of Ettleson Cadillac-Buick-GMC, as well as Ettleson Hyundai, which was acquired in 2003.
“I believe in treating others the way I want to be treated, which has served me well in business,” Ettleson said. “I give my managers autonomy to make their own decisions and offer them guidance to run dealerships as best as they can.”
In addition, Ettleson finds it rewarding to provide his employees with a great work environment and with the necessary tools to do their jobs effectively and enjoyably.
“I love to offer our employees the opportunity to earn a good living, and I enjoy watching their families grow,” he said. “It is also gratifying to help customers with their transportation needs in an honest and efficient manner.”
An active member in his state and local dealer associations, Ettleson has served on the board of the Illinois Automobile Dealers Association since 2015 and was chair of the group in 2020. He has also provided his leadership to the Chicago Automobile Trade Association (CATA) as a member of the board, chair of the board, and chair of the Chicago Auto Show.
In 2023, he partnered with the CATA to raise money for local service people and their families through the Chicago Automobile Trade Association’s USO BBQ for the Troops. The dealership joined more than 80 Chicago stores to offer hot dogs and burgers to visitors and raise funds for the USO Illinois.
Of all of Ettleson’s good works, he is most proud of his time working with Helping Hand, where he served on the board of directors from 1995 to 2010 and policy board from 2010 to 2018. The organization provides services to children and adults with developmental disabilities and offers employment opportunities, community living options and day programs.
“We have sponsored many events and golf outings for Helping Hand over the years,” he said. “My service on the boards has helped the center grow into the organization it is today, while fulfilling its mission to guide individuals with developmental disabilities to lead productive and useful lives with as much independence as possible.”
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.”
Ettleson was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Joe McMahon, executive director of the Illinois Automobile Dealers Association. He and his wife Jeri have four children.