F&I magazine’s 2007 Dealer of the Year was crowned on Sunday, Feb. 4, at the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Convention — the honor going to Jim Click, Jr., of the Irvine, Calif.-based Tuttle Click Automotive.

Click, whose operation consists of stores in Tuscon, Arizona, and Irvine, California, was honored at a ceremony that also recognized this year’s 2007 Regional Pacesetters. In attendance were representatives from Southwest Dealer Services, DealerTrack, which sponsored the ceremony, EFG Group, David Robertson, executive director of the Association of Finance and Insurance Professionals (AFIP), four of the six 2007 Regional Pacesetters and other industry representatives.

“Some of the best ideas that we've been able to implement in our dealerships, we've probably taken from other dealers that were in F&I Magazine,” said Click, who also recognized each Pacesetter after receiving his award. “It was great to be recognized with some other dealers. We're trying to do it right way every single time in F&I. We were honored to be selected Dealer of the Year.”

This isn’t the first time Tuttle Click Automotive has earned accolades since its founding in the 1920s. Nominated by AFIP’s Robertson, the 12-dealership operation has earned the Ford President, Five Star and the Blue Oval awards. But more than its performance, it was the operation’s $1 million in annual contributions to the community that really set Tuttle Click Automotive apart from this year’s field of Regional Pacesetters.

Compliance was also a standout item for Tuttle Click Automotive, which includes customer pledges, compliance training, and a requirement that every F&I, sales and general manager be AFIP Certified.

“Today, we recognize six individuals, not for the profits they generate, but for the work they’ve done to improve the image of the automotive financing industry,” said Gregory Arroyo, executive editor, to kick off the ceremony. “This year, we have a diverse field, but all have one thing in common: The commitment and resolve to do it the right way.

“And at the end, one will be named the 2007 F&I Dealer of the year,” he added.

Also recognized were Fernando Somoza and Kirk Franceschini, owners of North Houston Infiniti – this year South Regional Pacesetter. Nominated by EFG companies, the company ranked fourth in the nation in sales for the month of December, and has a customer satisfaction rating of 95.8 percent.

The Midwest Regional Pacesetter was Dawson Grimsley of the Davis Moor Auto Group, Wichita, Kan. Also nominated by EFG companies, Grimsley was not in attendance, but had a company employee there to accept the award. However, it was a quote Grimsley made in the magazine’s February issue that really captured what the awards ceremony was all about.

“If faced with a choice between making $500 honestly, or $2,000 honestly, or even borderline dishonestly, I’ll make $500 every time,” Grimsley told the magazine, a quote that was repeated by Click during his acceptance speech.

Also recognized was this year’s Southeast Regional Pacesetter, Robert Bessam, CEO and owner of Easterns Automotive, Mclean, Va. Specializing in the subprime market, the operation stood out with judges because of its current CSI rating, which stands above 94 percent despite serving a consumer segment that’s often referred to as an “undesirable market.”

Not in attendance were the magazine’s Southwest Regional Pacesetter (nominated by DealerTrack), Jay Carley, Jr., executive manager of ABC Nissan in Phoenix, Ariz., and the Northeast Regional Pacesetter, Mike Balise (nominated by Resource Automotive) of Balise Motor Sales, West Springfield, Mass.