Tom Kelley Buick GMC
Fort Wayne, Indiana
“The most rewarding aspect of my automotive career is being able to carry on my father’s legacy, and to do so in the fluid and challenging landscape of the automotive industry.”
(New York, NY, October 18, 2022) – The nomination of Tom Kelley, president of Tom Kelley Buick GMC in Fort Wayne, Indiana, for the 2023 TIME Dealer of the Year award was announced today by TIME.
Kelley is one of a select group of 48 dealer nominees from across the country who will be honored at the 106th annual National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Show in Dallas, Texas, on January 27, 2023.
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. Kelley was chosen to represent the Automobile Dealers Association of Indiana in the national competition – one of only 48 auto dealers nominated for the 54th annual award from more than 16,000 nationwide.
“The most rewarding aspect of my automotive career is being able to carry on my father’s legacy, and to do so in the fluid and challenging landscape of the automotive industry,” nominee Kelley said.
A 1974 graduate of Indiana University in Bloomington, where he earned a degree in business administration, Kelley was destined to be an auto dealer from the start. “Some would say I was born into this industry,” he said. “Much to my parents’ surprise, I arrived on the same day that my father opened his first dealership on August 21, 1952.”
Kelley started working at the Kelley Automotive Group in 1974 and by 1983, he purchased his first Buick store from his father, Jim Kelley. Today, he is president of the company and oversees nine new-car dealerships in Fort Wayne and Decatur, Indiana, representing brands BMW, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, GMC, Jaguar, Jeep, Land Rover, MINI, Ram and Volvo. Three of his children currently hold key positions in the company.
“When my father followed his dream and opened his first dealership in 1952, no one could have imagined that dream would grow into the Kelley Automotive Group of today,” he said. “My automotive industry career has been all I have ever known, and I feel honored to lead the company and build on my father’s legacy with a portfolio of prestigious brands.”
The auto group celebrates its 70th anniversary this year, which was commemorated by the completion of the Kelley Auto Mall in southwest Fort Wayne, a 60-acre, state-of-the-art complex that will be home to Kelly’s dealerships, an auto body shop and car wash.
“None of this success would have been possible if it wasn’t for the extraordinary support from my wife, Patty, and family, but also the dedicated and hardworking employees that have played integral roles in helping grow our group to the size it is today,” Kelley said.
He has also served the Automobile Dealers Association of Indiana as lead legislative affairs chair since 2014. “I leveraged my political relationships and have fought for and against countless policies that would have a major impact on the car buying process,” he said.
Kelley attributes his company’s longevity and growth to the support his dealerships receive from customers and the community, something his father always valued. “My spirit for civic duty has been engrained in my business ideologies since I began working,” he said.
To that end, he is most proud of founding the Boys & Girls Clubs of Fort Wayne, which he helped establish in 1989 and where he is currently a board member. The group provides a safe and supportive after-school environment for children aged 6 to 18.
His work with the organization inspired a new venture: the Jim Kelley Career Pathway Center, named in honor of his father. This offshoot of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Fort Wayne will provide five learning labs focusing on automotive, manufacturing, construction trades, supply chain management and IT/CAD/CAM, as well as resume writing and interview training.
“The center offers specialized educational programs for marginalized youth to provide opportunities they may have never been exposed to within their current educational systems,” Kelley said. “We hope to employ several of these bright and promising students in the future.”
Other groups he currently supports include Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Indiana; State of Indiana Motor Vehicle Advisory Board; State of Indiana Motorsports Commission; 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 12th 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.
“For over 50 years, TIME has been committed to recognizing the impact of automotive dealers on their communities with the TIME Dealer of the Year award," said Edward Felsenthal, editor in chief and CEO, TIME. "We are proud to continue the legacy of honoring these works of service with our partners at Ally.”
Doug Timmerman, president of dealer financial services, Ally, said, “Auto dealers across the country who are nominated for this award each year are committed to not only doing it right and leading in a rapidly changing automotive industry but to strengthening their communities through giving back. The TIME Dealer of the Year program celebrates dealers who are the role models of the retail auto industry for their continuous efforts to lift up and support their employees, customers and communities.”
Kelley was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Marty Murphy, executive vice president of the Automobile Dealers Association of Indiana. He and his wife, Patty, have five children.