Sean Coughlin 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. Coughlin was chosen to represent the Greater New York 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.
“By far, the most rewarding part of my job is leading and mentoring the people on our team,” nominee Coughlin said. “We have built our business on the principles of integrity, fair and competitive pricing, excellence in service and respect for the individual. And all of our employees embrace that culture.”
A 1988 graduate of Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York, Coughlin had never worked in the car business when he and his father Thomas decided to buy a dealership in 1995.
“Despite neither of us having any automotive background, we were dedicated, passionate, and focused on providing customers with the best possible experience,” he said. “Our sales team has largely been built by people outside of the car business, and most of our management has been trained and promoted internally.”
Today, the Premier Collection auto group encompasses seven dealership locations in New York and Connecticut, representing Lincoln, Mazda, Subaru, Volkswagen, and Volvo. Coughlin’s son, Jack, is the next generation to join the family business.
“We believe that our local roots give us a unique advantage over our larger, corporate competitors,” he said. “Unlike many of the big dealership groups in the area, we are deeply ingrained in the community. We live and raise our families here, and we understand the unique needs of our customers.”
A strong advocate for fellow dealers in his region, Coughlin has served on the board of directors for the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association since 2012. He believes the group is a vital resource to create a favorable business environment for his industry.
“It has been a great honor to be part of the association and serve on the government relations committee,” he said. “We work to ensure that lawmakers understand how important dealerships are to the local economy and the communities they serve while fighting legislation that attacks the franchised system.”
In the area of community service, Coughlin’s dealership exemplifies the Subaru Love Promise. “We believe that giving back to the community is essential, and we are proud to be strong community partners with strong values,” he said.
One notable partner is the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital in Valhalla, New York. Through the Subaru Share the Love Event, Coughlin raised money for the hospital by matching funds donated by Subaru of America for each vehicle sold or leased over the last 6 weeks of the year.
“So far, we have raised over $464,000 for the hospital as part of a multi-year pledge of $1.5 million to help support and improve pediatric emergency services,” he said. “By focusing on the needs of children, these enhancements will make a real difference in the lives of families facing medical emergencies.”
In addition, he partnered with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to deliver blankets, art kits and notes of encouragement from his employees and customers to children undergoing treatment at the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital. He also donates coats to Operation Warm through the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association annual drive, plus socks and blankets to the YWCA White Plains & Central Westchester for distribution to women who are housing insecure and live in the YWCA Women’s Residence.
Through the Subaru Loves Learning initiative, Coughlin works with local schools in the area to donate supplies and other resources. For Paws Crossed Animal Rescue, his dealership contributes $100 per dog or cat adopted during the month of October and provides new pet kits with toys and supplies for distribution to adopting families.
Other groups he supports include My Sisters’ Place in White Plains, which works to end domestic violence and human trafficking, and the Greenburgh (New York) Police Department’s Child Safety Seat Inspection Program, which holds their inspections in his dealership’s service area.
“We have been given the privilege to serve this community,” Coughlin said. “With this privilege comes a duty to support community members who are in need.”
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.”
Coughlin was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Mark Schienberg, president of the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association. He and his wife Karen have three children.