Women Driving Auto Retail Announces Inaugural Awards
This year’s Women Driving Auto Retail event, hosted in conjunction with NADA Show 2024 in Las Vegas, included the announcements of the initiative’s three inaugural awards. NADA’s Women Driving Auto Retail initiative aims to empower women working in the auto retail industry and encourage more women to join the industry by highlighting the many unique career paths of women before them.
The awards, sponsored by RouteOne, were developed to recognize the women and men pushing gender diversity forward. Take a look at the 2024 award winners below.
Rising Star Award: Lilly Jimenez, General Manager of Classic Chevrolet OKC in Oklahoma City
The Rising Star Award recognizes a woman early in her dealership career who is driving her path in auto retail and serving as a role model and champion for her female peers in the industry.
“Our winner today embodies resilience, dedication, and the pursuit of dreams against many odds,” said Amber Haseley, Director of National Business Development at RouteOne, who presented the awards at the event. “Her story is one of extraordinary courage and determination.”
Jimenez came to the United States as a refugee during the Vietnam War. After 10 years, she left her successful career in telecommunications to raise her two daughters.
Last summer, she, her husband and their business partner bought a dealership as part of General Motors Minority Dealer Development Program. Jimenez knew her experience in customer service, relationship building and hard work would translate to a successful career at a dealership – and she was right.
Accelerator Award: Samantha Martin, Assistant Service Director of Pohanka Hyundai of Salisbury
The Accelerator Award recognizes a mid-career level woman who has demonstrated success in improving gender equity in her dealership.
Martin, who has worked at Pohanka of Salisbury for 23 years, oversees the operations at three of the auto group’s dealerships. She has used her position in management to champion initiatives to empower females to thrive within the service departments.
Martin has implemented split shifts to enable two women to share their job responsibilities, providing more flexible hours to be with their families. She has also allowed some team members to work from home as their positions allow.
As a mother, Martin understands how important it is to create opportunities for women to thrive in their dealership careers while balancing family responsibilities.
Ally Award: Karl Schmidt, President of Hello Auto Group in Los Angeles, Calif.
The Ally Award recognizes a person with a career track record in hiring, training, mentoring and championing women in auto retail and enhancing gender diversity in the field.
Schmidt built the foundation for the culture of his automotive group in the early 1990s when he proactively recruited women in the dealership, building a bench for the diverse leadership team he has today. Now 50% of the Hello Auto Group general managers are female, and women also represent 50% of his corporate positions.
One female manager from Hello Auto Group said of Schmidt: “I have been in the auto industry since 2004. I have worked in many different operational roles but never in my wildest dreams would I ever imagine that I would be given the opportunity to be a general manager. Karl saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. He brings the best out of me and makes me believe I can lead my team effectively. Thanks to his support and motivation I have been successful managing my own store.”