Peter Smith 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. Smith was chosen to represent the Greater Los Angeles New Car Dealers Association in the national competition – one of only 49 auto dealers nominated for the 55th annual award from more than 16,000 nationwide.
“Carrying on a remarkable family tradition in the automotive business has been most rewarding to me,” nominee Smith said. “As the fourth generation in the Smith family to own and operate a franchise, I am grateful for the wisdom and leadership of generations before me.”
It all began in 1917, when Smith’s great-grandfather opened car dealerships in and around San Francisco. He later moved to southern California in the 1930s and over the years, the dealership group and the family expanded. In the 1960s, Smith’s father Mike ran the Volkswagen/Porsche/Audi store in Hollywood and that’s where Smith fell in love with the auto business.
“As a young boy, I dreamed of working with my dad at his car dealership,” he said. “By the age of six, I had already made up my mind about a career.”
Smith started washing cars, stocking parts, cleaning the service bays and training on the sales floor during high school and on college breaks.
“I learned the business by stepping into each role at the dealership,” he said. “Sales was my favorite as I loved matching a customer's needs and wants with the different products and services we offered and figuring out the best way to make the numbers work.”
When he graduated from Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut, with a B.A. in history in 1992, he decided to stay on the east coast to be with his college sweetheart, Christine, who later became his wife. During that time, he worked at MetLife in Bridgewater, New Jersey, but he never gave up on his dream.
In 1995, the couple returned to California and Smith officially began his career at the new Toyota store that his father established in La Crescenta upon selling the Hollywood store. He returned to sales and rose to new-car manager, general sales manager, general manager and then dealer principal and owner of Bob Smith Toyota in 2011.
“It was the pinnacle of my automotive career and an honor to continue my family’s legacy,” Smith said. “With each generation, our commitment to providing exceptional service, ethical practices and a deep connection to our community has grown stronger.”
He also credits the unwavering support and dedication of his employees for the dealership’s continued growth and success.
With such a long and storied history in California’s retail automotive market, Smith is passionate about advocating for fellow dealers to keep the industry strong. He has served on the board of the Greater Los Angeles New Car Dealers Association for more than 13 years and has played a key role in the group’s workforce development initiatives, from mentoring dealers to nurturing young technicians.
Giving back to the community that has supported his family for a century is part of Smith’s corporate ethos and his DNA. He is on the board of the Crescenta Valley Chamber of Commerce and actively supports local schools, youth sports, area events and fundraisers. As a member of the Crescenta Valley Fireworks Association, he has contributed to this longstanding tradition that brings joy to the community each year on the Fourth of July.
In support of the Dolores Mission School, a Catholic parish grade school in Los Angeles, Bob Smith Toyota sponsors the annual Jesuit Charities Golf Tournament which raises funds for scholarships.
“These scholarships cover a portion or the entirety of tuition costs, making quality education accessible to low-income families and underserved students,” he said.
Smith is also a board member of the YMCA Quarterback Club, which raises funds through weekly luncheons during football season and other donations to support football programs and scholarships for student athletes at area schools.
Additionally, Bob Smith Toyota supports Verbum Dei High School's corporate work study program. As a Verbum Dei Jesuit partner, young men from this South Los Angeles high school are employed on a part time basis at the dealership and in turn, gain valuable career experience along with responsibility and commitment as well as tuition assistance.
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.”
Smith was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Bob Smith, executive director of the Greater Los Angeles New Car Dealers Association. He and his wife Christine have three children.