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John Bowis

John Bowis

Chevy Chase Acura
Bethesda, Maryland

"I am blessed to be able to carry on and build upon the 80-year family traditions and business reputation first established by my grandfather and father."

“As a third-generation dealer, this business is in my blood,” nominee Bowis said. “I am blessed to be able to carry on and build upon the 80-year family traditions and business reputation first established by my grandfather and father.”

A 1980 graduate of Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Bowis earned a B.A. in government and law in 1985 at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, where he was a member of Zeta Psi fraternity and also minored in psychology, economics and business.

After graduation, Bowis joined his family dealership full-time as a salesperson and spent six years rotating through every department. “I first started in high school as a janitor and a porter, then worked in the car wash and as a detailer,” he remembered. “During my college years, I was a counterman in the parts department, a painter in the body shop, a technician apprentice in the service department and a bookkeeper in the accounting office.”

His background was augmented when he attended Pat Ryan & Associates F&I (finance and insurance) school in Chicago, Illinois, and a Chevrolet dealer management program in Warren, Michigan, before being named assistant general manager. Today, he runs the business that his grandfather founded in 1939.

“Despite both my father and grandfather being deceased, there is not a single day that I don't think of them or their wise counsel given to me over the years,” Bowis said. “They believed that the only way to achieve success was through customer satisfaction, but to have a great CSI [Customer Satisfaction Index], first you have to have a great ESI [Employee Satisfaction Index].”

Bowis is proud to create a culture that fosters long-term career opportunity, noting that four of his employees retired after 50 years of service and three more have been with the company for 40 to 50 years. “Simply put, happy employees equal happy customers,” he said.

As current chairman of the Washington Area New Automobile Dealers Association and a member of the executive committee for many years, Bowis has worked diligently to influence public policy on behalf of the auto industry. “I have been asked to speak to public policy decision makers, elected officials, urban planners, transportation planners, trade associations, business groups and other civic and community groups on the future of transportation and mobility,” he said. “I have given presentations on connected autonomous vehicles [CAVs] and the transformational change they will bring not just to our industry, but to our society as a whole.”

Bowis is equally committed to bettering his community. One of his most important civic contributions is his work for The Children’s Inn at NIH (National Institutes of Health). This facility provides comfortable and convenient homelike housing for families to use while their children are undergoing treatment. For 26 years, Chevy Chase Acura hosted a car show at the dealership to raise money for the Inn. “Over the years, we were able to generate more than $1 million in corporate sponsorship and donations,” he said. “The Inn has now doubled in size and added 22 more family suites, a second communal kitchen, additional common areas and an expanded playground.”

Other groups Bowis supports include Best Buddies Capital Region (recent fundraiser at the dealership where guests could sing karaoke in an Acura to raise funds for this group that helps people with intellectual and developmental disabilities); YMCA Youth and Family Services; Alzheimer’s Association; Bethesda Green (focus on sustainable economy); Bethesda Cares (community outreach program for the homeless); Humane Rescue Alliance (pet adoption and rescue in Washington, D.C. area); and Combat Soldiers Recovery Fund, to name a few.

“One of the most important things I learned from my father is to give back to the community,” Bowis said. “Our involvement in our community has strengthened our reputation as an ethical dealer.”

Bowis was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by John P. O'Donnell, president and CEO of the Washington Area New Automobile Dealers Association. He and his wife, Cheray, have five children.