Welcome to the 2018 Dealers’ Choice Awards! This prestigious program is based on an online survey sent to readers of Auto Dealer Today and F&I and Showroom, including dealers as well as senior managers and sales and F&I professionals.
Every voter manually entered each of their partner companies’ names and scored them on the quality of the product or service itself, customer service and support, value for money spent, and whether they would recommend the company to another dealer. The top three providers who were rated above the mean score in each category earned first-place Diamond, second-place Platinum, and third-place Gold honors.
This year’s program included 34 categories, including three new categories: Digital Sales and F&I, F&I Product Training, and F&I Financing. Three categories were discontinued for 2018: Chat, Online Inventory Listing Management, and Internet Training.
The winners were recognized in a special ceremony at Industry Summit, which was held Oct. 8–10 in Orlando, Fla. The staff at Auto Dealer Today extends its gratitude to all the dealers who completed the Dealers’ Choice Awards survey and for the hard work and dedication of our honorees.
“We can’t thank the readers of Auto Dealer Today and F&I and Showroom enough for taking the time to cast their votes and rate their providers,” said the magazines’ publisher, David Gesualdo. “Congratulations to our winners.”
This year’s awards included:
- 34 categories
- 70 winners
- 100 awards
- 26 consecutive award winners
- 16 multiple award winners
And the Winners Are …
Dealer.com earned the first-place Diamond award for best New-Vehicle Lead provider after winning second-place Platinum honors for three consecutive years, followed by a Gold award in 2017. Settling for Platinum this year was Autotrader, ending a five-year run in the No. 1 spot but continuing a streak of top-three finishes that stretches back to the DCAs’ inception in 2005.
Cars.com took home this year’s Gold award after earning Platinum in 2017; Cars.com has won an award in the New-Vehicle lead category in eight of the past 11 contests.
Cars.com won its second consecutive Diamond award in the Used-Vehicle Lead provider category, notching its 11th consecutive year of recognition. CarsDirect won Platinum, swapping places with Autotrader, which settled for Gold after winning Platinum last year and four consecutive Diamonds from 2013 to 2016.
Cars.com, CarsDirect, and Autotrader have dominated the Used-Vehicle Lead category in recent years, accounting for all three awards since 2016. eBay Motors won Gold in 2015.
Special Finance Lead
CarsDirect was ranked No. 1 among Special Finance Lead providers for the third straight year and finished in the top three for the ninth time in the past 10 contests. The company also notched three consecutive Platinum awards from 2013 to 2015.
This year’s second-place winner was Auto Credit Express, which also won Platinum in 2017. Auto Credit Express has finished in second or third place in the Special Finance Lead category every year since 2012. There was no Gold award winner in the Special Finance Lead category this year.
Dealer.com stormed back into the Digital Marketing category with a first-place Diamond award, its first top-three finish since winning Platinum in 2015. eBizAutos, which has been ranked in the top three every year since the category was introduced in 2013, earned Platinum honors for the second straight year.
Last year’s Diamond award winner, ELEAD1ONE, fell to third place but added to its own streak of wins in the category, notching its fifth straight award for Digital Marketing in 2018.
Digital Sales and F&I (NEW)
With the first of three new Dealers’ Choice Awards categories came three new DCA winners: Darwin Automotive won the first-place Diamond award, Axiom was ranked No. 2, and AutoFi took home the Gold for Digital Sales and F&I. Expect high drama in the years ahead as providers in the segment proliferate and dealers continue to recognize those that are driving production and profitability in your stores.
“Recognition from those you serve is a high honor,” said Michael Reth, president and CEO of Axiom Product Administration. “We set out every day to provide solutions to business problems that are facing the modern auto dealership and their consumers. Being recognized by the industry in the field of technology is a humbling reward, and we couldn’t be more grateful for this acknowledgement. Thank you to those dealers who voted for Axiom. We’re just getting started!”
Dealer.com added to a lengthy streak in the Website provider category with its second consecutive Diamond award and 13th top-three ranking since the Dealers’ Choice Awards began in 2005. Dealer.com has won the Diamond award in this category seven times since 2010.
eBizAutos finished in second place for the second time in as many years and the ninth time since 2008; eBizAutos won the Diamond award for best Website provider in 2012 and 2016. Dealer eProcess won the Gold award, its second top-three finish in this category since winning Gold in 2014.
“We are honored that our commitment to customer service and innovative website tools has earned us a Dealer’s Choice Award,” said Joe Gillespie, owner of Dealer eProcess. “Our goal is to help dealers and customers celebrate the vehicle purchase experience. This award is especially exciting as it comes as the direct result of votes from dealers around the country who know and trust our company.”
eBizAutos took home the Diamond award for Mobile Media for the second consecutive year and the fourth time since the category was introduced in 2013; the company won Platinum in 2014 and 2016.
“It is an honor once again to receive Dealers’ Choice Awards in three categories for our Dealer Website, Digital Marketing, and Mobile Media solutions,” said Senad Maslesa, president of eBizAutos. “Thanks to our amazing clients for your vote of confidence, and we look forward to working with you on the continued growth and success of your dealerships.”
eBizAutos and Dealer.com have owned the top two spots in all six years of the category’s history. Dealer.com won its second consecutive Platinum award this year. First-time DCA winner Automotive Mobile Solutions claimed the Gold award.
Social Media Management
The Social Media Management category continues to be dominated by Naked Lime, Ally, and Cartifex, won the Diamond, Platinum, and Gold awards, respectively, this year and have accounted for 11 of the 12 total awards in the category since it was introduced in 2015.
Naked Lime ascended to first place after winning Gold in 2017. Ally won Platinum, continuing a streak of four top-two finishes. Cartifex settled for Gold after winning Platinum last year.
CDK Global was rated by dealers as the industry’s No. 1 Reputation Management provider for the second straight year, winning the Diamond award after settling for second place in 2015 and 2016.
AutoPoint won Platinum, its second top-three finish after winning Gold in 2016. This year’s Gold award went to Dominion Dealer Solutions, marking that company’s fourth consecutive ranking in the Reputation Management category; Dominion won the Diamond award in 2015 and 2016 and Platinum last year.
“I was recently at an automotive event and one of our customers, Rebecca Kish, came right up to me and said, ‘I love Prime. It gains us a boatload of new reviews every week and alerts us via email of all new activity on the review platforms. We’re able to effectively get ahead of our reputation management and, as a result, improve our online image.’ It was so nice to hear this feedback and this award means that there are more dealers who feel like Rebecca,” said Jen Sanford, vice president of marketing and industry relations for Dominion Dealer Solutions Prime Reputation.
ProMax won its fifth straight Diamond award for best Direct Mail provider, continuing an enviable streak that began in 2014.
“We’re honored our dealers continue to show their appreciation for our products and services,” said ProMax COO Shane Born. “These awards demonstrate how our diverse suite of products work in concert to help dealers sell cars. ProMax enables dealers to skip all the hassles of integrating various systems and dealing with multiple companies. At ProMax, it all comes together for the dealer’s benefit.”
Strategic Marketing won its second straight Platinum award, also finishing in the top three for the fifth consecutive year; Strategic won the Diamond award in eight straight contests starting in 2005. Action Integrated Marketing took home the Gold, its first win in the Direct Mail category since earning Platinum honors in 2016.
ELEAD1ONE has been voted the Diamond award winner for best Virtual BDC provider in each of the three years the category has been in play. AllCall Multi-Channel BDC won its second straight Platinum award for Virtual BDC. Dealer’s Greatest Assets, a first-time Dealers’ Choice Award winner, took home the Gold.
Dealers rated vAuto as the industry’s best Inventory Management provider, handing the company its first Diamond award since it notched five consecutive first-place wins from 2010 to 2014 and continuing a 10-year run in which the company has finished first or second in the category.
DealerSocket won the Platinum, its first award in the Inventory Management category, and MAXDigital, also a first-time category winner, edged out such past competitors as Dealertrack and FirstLook to secure the Gold award.
Hiring and Recruitment
Auto Careers Online became a Dealers’ Choice Award winner for the first time by earning the first-place Diamond award for Hiring and Recruitment, beating out such competitors as GSFSGroup and Hireology, which won the Platinum and Gold awards, respectively, this year.
“We are honored to have received the 2018 Diamond-level Dealers’ Choice Award and for the opportunity to positively affect people’s lives,” said Diane Uzelac, president of Auto Careers Online. “We love connecting best-in-class candidates with best-in-class employers. Being the catalyst to secure better opportunities for quality people while impacting their lives for the better is what drives us. With our niche in F&I development and C-level management executives for 30 years, the recipe for success is not only ensuring our clients are happy, but just as importantly, our candidates are as well.”
GSFSGroup improved to second place after winning Gold in 2017 and Diamond the year before. Hireology also has placed in the category in all three years of its existence, having won Platinum in 2016 and 2017 and finishing third this year.
American Financial & Automotive Services won its second straight Diamond award in the highly competitive Sales Training category, one of six Dealers’ Choice Awards for the company this year.
“It is an honor to be recognized by our dealer partners and Bobit Business Media for six Dealers’ Choice Awards. We take great pride in our trainers, curriculum, and development solutions for our partners. We would like to thank the industry for these distinguished awards,” said Arden Hetland, president of American Financial.
Second-place Platinum honors were claimed by Joe Verde Group, which has finished in the top three every year since the DCAs began in 2005, a streak that includes five Diamonds. Third-place Gold went to Ziegler SuperSystems, which won three straight Diamond awards from 2015 to 2017 and Platinum last year.
United Development Systems continues to dominate the F&I Training category. UDS won its sixth consecutive Diamond award in the category and has failed to finish in the No. 1 spot only once since the awards’ inception in 2005.
Platinum winner American Financial & Automotive Services earned its fifth straight top-three ranking among F&I Training providers; the company tied with UDS for the Diamond award last year. Reahard & Associates won the Gold award, notching its sixth second- or third-place finish in the past seven contests.
F&I Product Training (NEW)
The F&I Product Training category was introduced to recognize companies providing advanced, product-specific training within or outside dealerships. The second of three new categories in this year’s program included a Diamond award for American Financial & Automotive Services, Platinum honors for National Automotive Experts (NAE), and Gold for RoadVantage.
Special Finance Training
DealerStrong earned its third consecutive Diamond award for Special Finance Training and remains the only company to be ranked No. 1 in the category since it was introduced in 2016. American Financial & Automotive Services moved up from Gold in 2017 to Platinum in this year’s contest. NCM Associates won the Gold award after finishing in second place the past two years.
American Financial & Automotive Services won the first-place Diamond award for Compliance Training for the third straight year since finishing in second place when the category was introduced in 2005.
Close on American Financial’s heels is United Development Systems (UDS), which earned its third consecutive Platinum award and fourth consecutive top-three ranking in the Compliance Training category. Third place went to Mosaic Compliance Services, which also won the Gold award in 2016.
Dealers ranked DealerPRO Service Solutions as the industry’s No. 1 Service Training provider for the third consecutive year. The company remains the category’s only Diamond winner since it was introduced in 2016.
“Being awarded the No. 1 Service Training company three years in a row reflects our passion for the outstanding people, improved processes, and greater profits that can be achieved in service and parts by ‘Putting your Customer First’ and investing in professional training for your entire team. I have always believed the back end of the store is the backbone of the retail automotive dealership, and I’d like to thank all the dealers, GMs, and service managers who ranked DealerPRO Training No. 1 in Service Training for 2018,” said Don Reed, the company’s CEO.
American Financial & Automotive Services earned Platinum honors, notching its first win in the Service Training category. CDK Global took home the Gold after finishing in second place in 2016 and 2017, edging out the Cardone Group, which was ranked third the past two years.
RoadVantage won the Diamond award for best F&I Products provider for the second straight year, marking its fourth straight ranking in the category since 2015; the company won Gold in 2015 and Platinum in 2016.
“We are deeply honored to win the Dealers’ Choice Diamond award in the category of F&I Products provider for the second year in a row. We believe that our commitment to providing a better experience to agents, dealers, and customers is not just good business, but the right thing to do. Thank you to all the dealers who continue to vote for RoadVantage as their No. 1 provider,” said Garret Lacour, the company’s CEO.
National Auto Care won the Platinum award, improving on third-place finishes in 2016 and 2017.
“National Auto Care’s consistent growth and performance in this contest is a true testament to our family of employees as well as the agents and dealers who trust our brand. We are humbled to have advanced from Gold to Platinum in this award category because of the innovative products we, along with our agent partners, are able to offer dealerships,” said NAC’s president and CEO, Tony Wanderon. “As National Auto Care expands its scope following our recent acquisition by Lovell Minnick Partners, we look forward to advancing even further in this contest in years to come as we bring more innovative products to market.”
ECP reentered the F&I Products fray by claiming the Gold — its first award in the category since earning Platinum honors in 2014 and 2015 — and edging out IAS, which had won Diamond or Platinum every year since the category was introduced in 2013.
The history of the Service Contract category would look very different without CNA National, which won its seventh consecutive Diamond award in 2018 and has settled for second place only once in the 14-year history of the Dealers’ Choice Awards.
“It is an incredible honor to be acknowledged by our dealers for 14 years in a row. Despite the changes that continue to occur in our industry, our company’s commitment to customer-service excellence continues to be a guiding principle, as it has been for more than three decades,” said Joe Becker, president and CEO of CNA National.
Second place went to AUL Corp., which moved up one spot after winning Gold every year from 2014 to 2017; AUL has tallied a total of six wins in the category.
“We work extremely hard to ensure we offer the best products and provide industry-leading customer service and support. And to earn a Platinum award this year confirms that, together with our partners, we are on the right track,” said Jimmy Atkinson, president and CEO of AUL. “We share this award with our amazing network of agents and dealers, for without whom, this award would not be possible. To them, we say congratulations and thank you for your dedication, hard work, and partnership.”
The only other company to ever win the Diamond in the Service Contract category is Protective Asset Protection, which earned first-place honors in 2011 and has finished second or third ever since; Protective won the Gold award this year.
Service Contract Reinsurance
The two-way battle between Portfolio and CNA National for the No. 1 spot in the Service Contract Reinsurance category continued this year, with Portfolio emerging victorious with first-place Diamond honors. Portfolio has won the Diamond in six out of 11 contests since the category was introduced and has yet to rank lower than second.
“I first thank everyone at our dealers’ stores who voted for us this year. We are grateful and don’t take lightly how much this means. But I also want to emphasize that this award is shared with our independent agents, managing directors and reinsurance specialists. We know that Portfolio agents are the face of our company in the stores every week. Their superb servicing of our mutual clients goes a long way to explaining our long winning record in the Dealers’ Choice Awards,” said Portfolio’s CSO, Dan Haugen. “And, I will add, our quarterly meetings that are conducted by our managing directors and reinsurance specialists with our dealer principals also make an important difference in helping us earn this top award.”
CNA won the Platinum award one year after winning Diamond and has ranked first, second, or third among Service Contract Reinsurance providers every year since 2009. SouthwestRe won the Gold award for the second consecutive year.
“It goes without saying that all of us at SouthwestRe are exceedingly grateful to win the Dealers’ Choice Gold award for Service Contract Reinsurance for the second year in a row. Considering the amount of competition there is out there, it is a privilege to be singled out and recognized for the enormous value of our reinsurance programs,” said Eddie Eckert, the company’s recently retired president. “I feel there are two overwhelming reasons why our reinsurance programs were chosen for this honor. For one, we have great people whose reinsurance expertise is unsurpassed. For another, we work with an equally great team of dealers and independent agents who know us, who trust in us, and who work incredibly hard to market our programs every day. What an unbeatable combination!”
“Once again, our sincere appreciation to everyone who voted to put SouthwestRe in the winner’s circle,” Eckert added. “Thank you!”
F&I Desking Software
ProMax won its record eighth straight Diamond award for F&I Desking Software. The company has failed to finish in the top three only once, in 2008, since the Dealers’ Choice Awards began in 2005. Second-place Platinum honors belong to Reynolds and Reynolds, which has earned an award in the category nine times in the past 11 years.
CDK Global took home the Gold to notch its first-ever win in the F&I Desking Software category. Dealertrack finished outside the top three for the first time since 2007, ending an 11- year run that culminated in a Platinum award last year.
StoneEagle won the Diamond award for F&I Technology, improving upon its second-place ranking last year and its Gold award in 2016.
“Earning the trust of our clients and partners is of paramount importance to us here at StoneEagle. We are truly honored to win the Diamond Dealers’ Choice Award for F&I Technology and appreciate the dealer community for choosing StoneEagle as their premier F&I Technology partner,” said Cindy Allen, the company’s CEO. “Thank you to our remarkable team members and their tremendous dedication to delivering exceptional client experiences to our network of clients nationwide. And thank you to our amazing agent and product provider clients who continue to help us gain a deeper understanding of this ever-changing industry, pushing us to deliver the absolute best in products and service, as we continue to innovate ahead of the curve for over 30 years now. We count it a privilege to work with each and every one of you.”
MaximTrak won its third Platinum award in the category since it was introduced in 2015, having settled for third place last year. F&I Express won its fourth consecutive award for F&I Technology, taking home the Gold after winning the Diamond award in 2016 and 2017.
“Winning a Dealers’ Choice Award for the fourth year in a row is a great accomplishment. Putting our customers first is what gets us great reviews from our customers,” said Brian Reed, president and CEO of F&I Express. “Our great customer service traces back to our employees.”
Reynolds and Reynolds moved up from Platinum to Diamond in the CRM provider category this year after moving up from Gold to Platinum in 2017. ProMax finished second after earning Diamond honors in 2016 and 2017.
ELEAD1ONE won the third-place Gold award for the second straight year. ELEAD1ONE has won more DCAs for CRM than any other company — no mean feat, considering a total of 16 companies have been honored in the category since 2005 — including five straight Diamond awards from 2011 to 2015.
Reynolds and Reynolds also finished first among DMS providers, notching its second straight first-place finish in the category; Reynolds has been honored every year since the category was introduced with the first Dealers’ Choice Awards in 2005.
CDK Global won Platinum for the second consecutive year. Dealertrack added to its record of success in the DMS category, winning its second consecutive Gold and building upon a 12- year streak of top-three rankings that also includes eight Diamond awards and two Platinums.
ELEAD1ONE reclaimed the No. 1 ranking among the industry’s best Data Mining providers, having won Diamond when the category was introduced in 2016 and finishing second last year. DealerSocket placed in the category for the first time with a second-place Platinum award. Dominion Dealer Solutions won the Gold award after taking home Platinum in 2016 and winning the Diamond award last year.
Alan Andreu is credited as one of the founding inventors of equity mining in automotive and started DealActivator over 10 years ago in the Tampa, Fla., area. Today, Andreu and his team continue to innovate around the modern automotive shopper by aggregating more consumer data points than any other equity mining provider in the space. “We will continue to make dealers’ lives better through the power of enhanced equity and are honored that so many dealers voted for us,” Andreu said.
The only other company to be recognized in the Data Mining category’s young history is AutoAlert, which won Gold in 2016 and 2017.
Dealers named Ally SmartAuction as the industry’s No. 1 Online Auction provider this year, continuing a 14-year streak in which the company finished outside the top two only once and has notched a total of six Diamonds.
Manheim has been ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the category for 13 straight contests, tallying seven Diamond awards and settling for Platinum this year. eBay Motors won the Gold award, earning recognition in the Online Auction category for the first time and leaving ADESA, which had finished in third place for five straight years, out of the running.
Manheim earned its sixth consecutive Diamond award as the industry’s top-ranked Traditional Auction provider. Manheim has yet to fail to make the top three in the category since 2005, a record that includes 11 Diamonds, two Platinums, and a Gold.
ADESA is not far behind, having won the Platinum award for the past six contests following a Diamond win in 2012; ADESA has won a total of 11 awards in the Traditional Auction category. America’s Auto Auction won its first-ever Dealers’ Choice Award by taking home the Gold; America’s Auto Auction became the first company other than Manheim or ADESA to notch any win in the category since 2008.
Prime Captive Finance Company
GM Financial won the Diamond award in the Prime Captive Finance Company category, emerging victorious from a crowded field of competitors for the fourth straight year. American Honda Finance reclaimed the Platinum award after settling for third place in 2017.
This year’s Gold award belongs to Ford Motor Credit, which won Platinum last year and has tallied seven awards in the Prime Captive Finance Company category since 2006. The all-time category winner is Toyota Financial Services, which has claimed 11 trophies since 2005 but failed to finish in the top three for the second consecutive year.
Prime Non-Captive Finance Company
A total of 19 finance sources have been recognized in the ever-crowded field of Prime Non-Captive Finance Companies, but only Ally can claim four consecutive Diamond awards, a streak that began in 2015 and continued this year.
Chase won its fourth Platinum in five years after finishing out of the running in 2017. U.S. Bank took home the Gold after a two-year absence from the DCA rankings. Wells Fargo has tallied nine wins in the Prime Non-Captive Finance Company category since 2006 but finished outside the top three this year after winning Gold in 2016 and 2017.
Subprime Finance Company
Capital One claimed the Diamond award in the Subprime Finance Company category for the first time since 2009 and notched its 10th top-three finish in the past 11 contests after finishing in second place last year. Wells Fargo fell to second place after winning three straight Diamond awards from 2015 to 2017 but extended its consecutive wins record to eight.
Taking home the Gold for the second straight year was Regional Acceptance. Regional has won six Diamond awards and 13 total awards in the Subprime Finance category, failing to make the top three only once, in 2008.
US Equity Advantage celebrated its fourth consecutive Diamond award in the Biweekly Payments category, for which the company owns a five-year win streak that began with Platinum honors in 2014.
“We are grateful for our longstanding partnerships with dealers nationwide who have enabled us to provide car buyers with greater value and an exceptional experience through the entire customer lifecycle,” said Robert Steenbergh, CEO of US Equity Advantage. “Our success and this award are also due, in part, to the collaborative relationships with our agent partners who work closely with us to provide training and support to finance managers.”
SMART Payment Plan won its fourth straight Platinum award after winning consecutive Diamonds in 2013 and 2014. For the second year in a row, there was no Gold award winner in the Biweekly Payments category.
F&I Financing (NEW)
The third and final new category in this year’s Dealers’ Choice Awards is F&I Financing, designed to recognize the companies that fund the purchase of F&I products. As with Digital Sales and F&I, the new category opened the door to three first-time DCA winners: PayLink Direct won the Diamond award, Line\5 won the second-place Platinum award, and Universal Lenders took home the Gold.
“Thank you to everyone who voted in this year’s Dealers’ Choice Awards. We are honored to receive the Diamond award for F&I Financing. At PayLink Direct, we pride ourselves on providing our clients with the tools they need to drive service contract sales and grow their businesses. To have dealerships nationwide recognize the value of our interest-free payment plan program and our exceptional customer service team is extremely gratifying,” said Rebecca Howard, the company’s CEO.
The Dealers’ Choice Awards are based on a survey that allowed dealers and dealership personnel to vote for providers in 34 separate categories. Survey respondents are asked to cast votes only for providers with which they have firsthand knowledge and experience.
In addition to identifying their primary providers in each category, respondents must rate their providers in four areas: (1) the product or service provided, (2) customer support and service, (3) the overall value for dollars spent, and (4) whether the voter would recommend the provider to another dealer.
The 2018 Dealers’ Choice Awards survey was open online from May 1, 2018, to May 30, 2018. Those who voted in at least five categories were automatically entered in a random drawing for one of two Amazon Fire HDs.
When it was launched in 2005, the survey was in multiple-choice format with the option to write in a vote for a company that wasn’t listed. Starting in 2012, every voter must manually enter the name of each company they wish to honor in each category. All votes were reviewed, scrutinized and cleansed for companies that received votes in the wrong categories. Voter registrations were spot-checked for validity.
As always, the sheer number of votes is not the deciding factor. Quality is more important than quantity. Scores were totaled, averaged and weighted for each provider. A value of 100 was then assigned to the overall average vote across all categories. Then the scores — including group averages and company scores — were adjusted relative to their position above or below the overall average.
Final placement is determined by raw scores. Ties are rare but can occur if two winners earn the exact same raw score. The provider with the highest above-group-average score receives the Diamond award, followed by the Platinum award and the Gold award; it is possible for fewer than three providers to earn an award in a given category.
Originally posted on Auto Dealer Today
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