Rita Case 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. Case was chosen to represent the Florida 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 celebrate my lifelong journey of paving the way for women to be accepted and respected as leaders in the male-dominated dealership world,” nominee Case said. “It’s rewarding to be a role model for women and to use my leadership and financial success to advance improvements in healthcare, education, and safety in the community.”
Case graduated the University of California, Davis with a B.S. in economics in 1977. She always knew she wanted to be an auto dealer. Her parents, Bill and Lori Manly, opened the first franchised Honda car dealership in the United States in Santa Rosa, California, and Case essentially grew up at the store.
“I loved the positive feelings I had at an early age working with people and learning how the different departments operated, which was challenging, exciting, and fun,” she said. “No one wanted a Honda car in 1969, but I drove one to school and introduced it to my classmates, promoting its benefits and creating buzz. It was my first sales job.”
After college, Case was named general manager of her family’s dealership and in a quest for more operational experience, she contacted NADA to start an NADA 20 Group for Honda. She met her future husband, Rick Case, through this peer group and in 1980, they married and moved to Akron, Ohio, where Rick had two Honda car stores and five motorcycle dealerships.
“I had to prove my ability again, from dealer’s daughter to dealer’s wife, so I focused on parts, service, and accounting since Rick’s talent was in sales,” she said. “As the only female on the leadership team and the wife of the dealer, I was even more determined to persevere and prove that a woman could earn respect and be recognized for making measurable contributions to the retail auto industry.”
The Cases moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 1985 to open the first Acura and Hyundai dealerships in the U.S. expanding their Rick Case Automotive Group, which now encompasses multiple locations in Florida and Georgia, representing brands Acura, Alfa Romeo, Audi, Fiat, Genesis, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Maserati, Mazda, and Volkswagen. Sadly, Rick passed away in 2020, but his legacy and the Rick Case brand will live on as the business he and Case built continues to thrive.
From her days selling the first Hondas in the country, Case is proud to be a pioneer of new car brands introduced to American consumers, including Isuzu, Hyundai, Acura, Mitsubishi, Dawoo, Kia, Smart cars, and Fiat.
“Through a positive attitude, passionate persistence, and a tireless work ethic, I am proud to be the largest female-owned-and-operated dealership group in the United States,” Case said. And she has garnered numerous awards for sales, service, and excellence from the auto manufacturers she represents.
An active member of the Florida Automobile Dealers Association, Case regularly provides input to the organization’s leadership on legislative issues that impact dealers throughout the state. On a local level, she is proud of founding the Ft. Lauderdale International Auto Show with her husband in 1990, which raises money for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Broward County. The couple partnered with the South Florida Automobile Dealers Association (SFADA) to produce and operate the program, and Case currently chairs the event.
“We wanted to bring a world-class auto show to Broward County and raise money to help children in our community,” she said. “We recruited all manufacturers and secured extensive media coverage. The show has been a success for 33 years.”
And Case is equally passionate about supporting the communities that her dealerships serve. For the past 41 years, her stores have collected bicycles from the community to give to children in need for the holidays through the Rick Case Bikes for Kids program. In addition, her company is the founding sponsor of 77 affordable homes for Habitat for Humanity of Broward. A Rick Case Habitat Community, located in Pompano Beach, Florida, is expected to be completed in 2024.
The Rick Case Automotive Group also funded the Rick Case storefronts for Junior Achievement of South Florida, an interactive exhibit at the group’s JA BizTown located in Coconut Creek, Florida. The hands-on displays allow children to experience the inner workings of a car dealership.
Case partnered with Soles4Souls to provide new athletic shoes for children in need through the group’s 4EveryKid program. And her company has been a major donor to Nova Southeastern University, home to the Rick Case Arena, where the Cases have established a scholarship endowment to provide higher education to Boys and Girls Club members to the Fort Lauderdale campus. She is also a member of the university’s board of trustees.
Other organizations that Case supports through leadership and donations include Community Foundation of Broward; American Heart Association; Cleveland Clinic Florida; Horatio Alger Association; and Broward Health Foundation, to name a few.
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.”
Case was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Ted Smith, president of the Florida Automobile Dealers Association. She and her late husband, Rick, have two children, Ryan Case and Raquel Case-Travaline.