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Tiverton, Rhode Island
"All of my employees are wonderful people in their own unique ways, and I am fortunate and grateful to have them working with me. Our employees are the most valuable asset we have."
“All of my employees are wonderful people in their own unique ways, and I am fortunate and grateful to have them working with me,” nominee Gray said. “Our employees are the most valuable asset we have.”
A 1970 graduate of Cold Spring Harbor High School in Cold Spring Harbor, New York, Gray began his career in the automotive industry at the Muscle Cars Performance Center in Bay Shore, New York, in 1971, where he delivered speed equipment parts and ran a global mail order program for the company.
In 1976, he took a sales job at Miller Pontiac & Datsun in Fall River, Massachusetts, and worked at several other dealerships before landing at Viti Bros. Mercedes-Benz and Toyota in Middletown, Rhode Island, in 1983. He rose through the ranks and eventually became partner and owner in 1994. Gray also owns and oversees Viti Volvo Cars and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter dealerships in Tiverton.
When Gray first arrived at Viti Mercedes-Benz in 1983, he started a program that increased the dealership’s service and parts business by 100 percent. “My pickup and delivery program, which included a loaner car, was hugely popular and is now employed by almost all dealers in the United States,” he said. Gray would pick up his customer's vehicle at their home, office, golf course – virtually anywhere – and leave a loaner car. He would then service the vehicle and wash and vacuum it before returning the vehicle to its owner.
“I started with three loaner cars and two drivers,” Gray said. “Today, I have 147 loaner cars and 40 drivers. And Mercedes-Benz USA and Volvo Cars USA have requested our help in developing a national program.”
He is also involved in his community, having coached Little League baseball and soccer in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. In addition, Gray supports many local and national charities, including the Cam Neely Foundation for Cancer Care; Hasbro Children’s Hospital (Providence, Rhode Island); Groden Network’s Annual John Trimble Fund Golf Tournament for Autism (Rumford, Rhode Island); Tiverton High School Athletics Hall of Fame; Miles for Megan Ride/Walk in Tiverton and Little Compton, Rhode Island (benefits the Megan L. Cordeiro Memorial Foundation); Izzy Foundation (Providence-based group that helps families whose loved ones are batting cancer); 100 Club of Rhode Island (supports the families of fallen police officers, firefights and paramedics); Wounded Warrior Project; and the John E. Fogarty Foundation for Persons with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (Providence).
Of all the awards Gray has received for sales and service excellence, he is most proud of being recognized for his customer service. “The 2014 Mercedes-Benz #1 CSI Dealer of the Year award was the most meaningful to me because my employees earned that award and my employees are the most important part of our operation and the reason for all of our accomplishments,” he said.
Gray was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Jack Perkins, executive vice president of the Rhode Island Automobile Dealers Association. He and his wife, Trish, have three children who they are very proud of; sons James and Jeffrey who are partners with him in the business and daughter Jaclyn who has her Master in Psychology.