NIADA welcomes Pollak to Ring of Honor

Already with a large collection of accolades and awards, you might say that Dale Pollak now is standing tall on the front line of the independent dealership world, as he’s now considering himself to be a “real car guy.”

Pollak, founder of vAuto, Cox Automotive executive vice president and an innovator in dealership inventory management, was selected as the newest member of the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association’s prestigious Ring of Honor.

Pollak became the 33rd auto industry leader to be inducted into the Ring of Honor, NIADA’s highest award for non-dealers, during Tuesday’s Leadership Awards ceremony. It was part of the 76th annual NIADA Convention and Expo at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

NIADA recapped in a news release that its Ring of Honor recognizes allied industry leaders who have contributed to the professionalism and growth of the automobile industry through outstanding performance and leadership.

“Dale is a pioneer of management, metrics and technology in the auto retail industry who changed the way dealers look at inventory,” NIADA chief executive officer Robert Voltmann said in the news release. “He’s helped countless dealers over the years with his investment-minded approach to used vehicle management.

“Dale’s monumental impact on our industry makes him a worthy and welcome addition to NIADA’s Ring of Honor,” Voltmann added.

The son of an auto dealer, Pollak grew up in the industry, sold his first car at age 16 and ran the used-vehicle operation for a Cadillac/GMC dealership he co-owned with his father, Len, in Elmhurst, Ill.

But while running that dealership with his father, Pollak was also losing his eyesight as a result of a genetic retinal disease. He worried that he wouldn’t be able to judge vehicles if he couldn’t see them, but his father assured him he didn’t need to.

“His exact words,” Pollak later recalled, “were, ‘It’s about the money, honey.’ ”

That got him thinking of vehicles as investments, which, with the help of then-newly developed technology, launched a career in bringing data — and new ways to use it — to car dealers.

Pollak founded vAuto in 2005 to bring visibility to pricing and values in a way that had never before existed. The company was acquired by Autotrader in 2010 and soon after, both companies were incorporated into Cox Automotive.

Pollak, who graduated at the top of his class from DePaul University’s law school, is a best-selling author with six books to his credit. He’s also a four-time winner of the American Jurisprudence Award, the 2010 Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year and a member of the Chicago Area Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame.

In 2014, he was named as Poling Chair at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business and currently serves as a transportation advisor to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

Even with all those accolades, Pollak said the Ring of Honor is something special.

First, he said in accepting the award, it’s a sign of the “symbiotic relationship” between franchised dealers and independents, whom he called “the foundation of this industry.”

“It serves as affirmation that we’re all in this together,” he said, “and that the fortune and the future of independent and franchise dealers are inextricably tied.”

But, he added, there’s a more personal reason for the Ring of Honor’s importance — and it goes back to Len Pollak, “a true-blue car guy.”

“It addresses a longstanding insecurity,” Pollak told the dealers in attendance, according to the news release. “You see, I was never a ‘car guy’ like my dad, or like many of you. I was the son of a successful car dealer who cast a long shadow. Sure, I had a love for the business and a knack for the business, but I wasn’t a car guy in the classic sense.

“So here I am today receiving the Ring of Honor award. I think this is the highest recognition I ever possibly could have hoped for in the industry. It signifies that I’ve been accepted as a true car guy by the real car guys and gals of our industry. And for that reason, I’ll cherish this moment and cherish this award forever.”

Also honored during the ceremony were NIADA Association Executive of the Year Wendy Rinehart, recipients of the annual NIADA Foundation scholarships and winners of NIADA’s Crystal Eagle award for their efforts in increasing association membership.

NIADA highlighted that Rinehart — Ohio’s state executive since 2013 — has taken an extremely active role in leading her association’s successful legislative advocacy efforts, events and education program, which has been used as a model by other state associations.

The association mentioned Rinehart also makes it a point to learn from other states, attending their conventions to keep up with the latest ideas and resources — and to support her fellow state executives.

“We have the best dealers in the United States,” said Rinehart, a past chair of NIADA’s Association Executives Council. “The best thing about Ohio is our dealers.”

The Carolinas again dominated the Crystal Eagle awards, producing nine of the 12 winners, who were recognized for their outstanding efforts in generating new members for NIADA.

Crystal Eagle awards went to:

—Dale Matthews of Matthews Motors
—Kevin Pendergrass of Carolinas Auto Sales of Myrtle Beach
—Steve Wetmore of McAdenville Motors
—Jerry Padrick of M&M Auto Sales
—Michael Threadgill of Triple T Motors
—Dean Cantey of Automotive Experts
—Wendy Pisor of Northside Auto Sales
—Dan Haight of Dealer Financial
—Sammy Bernardo of ProGuard Warranty
—Jason Reaves of Wayne Reaves Computer Systems
—Chris Maher of Car Credit Nation
—Bryan Daugherty of ACV Auctions and the Mid-Atlantic Regional IADA.

The scholarship recipients included Grace Haynes of Grosse Point, Mich., who earned the $10,000 NIADA Foundation/Manheim Scholarship to Northwood University.

A rising senior currently working toward both a bachelor’s degree and an MBA in Northwood’s automotive marketing and management department, Haynes was captain of the Kia OEM team for the 2021 Northwood International Auto Show. She serves as education director for the automotive department’s Enthusiasts Club and serves as a student ambassador for the university’s admissions office.

Haynes has interned for General Motors’ GMC marketing business team, and returned to GM this summer as an intern for the global marketing team, assisting with emerging media.

The NIADA Foundation also awarded scholarships to deserving students from each of the association’s four regions. The recipients included:

—Layla Zaidi of McLean, Va. (Region I)
—Declan Robert of Kodak, Tenn. (Region II)
—Jackson Wittenberg of Sugar Grove, Ill. (Region III)
—Ethan Maughan of Salt Lake City (Region IV)

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