Steve Pleau 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. Pleau was chosen to represent the California 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.
“What truly fills me with pride is witnessing our employees' growth and progression within the organization,” nominee Pleau said. “Knowing that I've played a role in their development and career advancement is immensely satisfying.”
A 1969 graduate of California State University, Sacramento, where he earned a B.S. in Business Administration, Pleau always knew he wanted to be a car dealer. His father, Gene Pleau, acquired a Ford dealership in Sacramento in 1963 and Pleau was introduced to the industry at a young age.
He spent his teens and early twenties washing cars, maintaining the lot, managing parts inventory and assisting in the service department. When he later transitioned into a sales associate role, he realized he had a knack for selling and forging relationships with customers.
“It was during those formative years that I knew I wanted to be a part of this fiercely competitive yet immensely rewarding industry, following in my father's footsteps,” Pleau said. “My dad’s dedication and hard work paved the way for our family’s automotive legacy.”
After college, Pleau, who also served in the California National Guard from 1968 to 1974, started his career at the dealership full-time. He rose to General Sales Manager and in 1981, took a leap of faith and opened his own store, Future Ford of Roseville.
“Armed with an extensive skillset, in-depth knowledge of the Ford product line, and a profound understanding of the value of treating customers and employees like family, I embarked on this entrepreneurial endeavor,” he said. “I owe much of my career growth to my father's invaluable mentorship and the many roles I undertook in all departments at his dealership, which laid a solid foundation.”
Pleau began to grow his footprint and acquire dealerships in northern and central California. Today, the Future Automotive Group encompasses 14 new-car dealerships with 23 franchises and three commercial fleet service centers, employing more than 1,300 Californians. His son Geoff is the next generation to carry on the family legacy.
One of Pleau’s proudest moments came in 2018 when he was inducted into the Ford Dealer Hall of Fame, becoming the sixth inductee to receive this prestigious honor from Ford Motor Company.
“This recognition stands as a highlight of my career, symbolizing the culmination of years of hard work, dedication, and a genuine passion for the automotive industry,” he said. “I share it with my team of hardworking, competent colleagues who have provided me with invaluable support and inspiration over the years.”
In the area of community and civic service, Pleau focuses on activities that have a significant impact locally. He believes it is a privilege and duty to give back to the communities that his dealerships serve and that have been integral to his success.
He is currently on the board of the Greater Sacramento Economic Council, a public-private partnership that promotes economic development, job creation, sustainability, equity and competitiveness in the region.
“Whether a company is looking to relocate, expand or build, our experts are ready to assist them by navigating and identifying solutions to meet their business goals,” Pleau said. “As a founding board member, I have spent countless hours helping businesses and supporting the local economy.”
Future Automotive Group also encourages its employees to be good corporate citizens and to give back to the organizations and causes that mean the most to them. The company supports time off for community service and donates to many charities and nonprofits.
Pleau’s dealerships and his customers join him in supporting Shriners Children’s Northern California through a bi-annual toy drive, local food banks by holding canned food drives, the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer of Sacramento by organizing events and fundraising activities, and by wearing pink during October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“I am also actively involved in supporting public and private schools, as well as their athletic programs,” he said. “On a personal level, my wife and I recently donated $1 million to the University Foundation at Sacramento State, our alma mater, to help build a new health and wellness facility.”
Pleau added, “By giving back and investing in the betterment of our society, I aim to ensure that future generations can enjoy the same opportunities that have enabled me and my dealerships to flourish over the years.”
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.”
Pleau was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Brian Maas, president of the California New Car Dealers Association.
Pleau and his late wife Vicki have two children and five grandchildren.