The nomination of Mark A. Mitchell, dealer principal at Mitchell Auto Group, a Chrysler, Dodge, Ram, Land-Rover, Saab, Subaru, Volkswagen and Volvo dealer in Simsbury, Connecticut, for the 2013 TIME Dealer of the Year award was announced today by TIME.
Mitchell is one of a select group of 57 dealer nominees from across the country who will be honored at the 96th annual National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Convention & Exposition in Orlando, Florida, on February 9, 2013. The announcement of this year’s nominees was made by Todd Larsen, executive vice president and group president, Time Inc. News and Sports, and Tim Russi, executive vice president, North American Auto Operations, for Ally Financial.
“At Mitchell Auto Group, we have two main philosophies,” nominee Mitchell has said.
“Treat your customer as you would like to be treated and treat your employees like part of the family.”
And that family business started quite humbly as the Weatogue Garage in 1922, opened by Mitchell’s grandfather, Robert Pringle. Mitchell’s parents purchased the business in 1956 and he began to run the operation in 1970. A 1967 graduate of Fryeburg Academy in Fryeburg, Maine, Mitchell also earned a Certified Automotive Merchandiser (CAM) degree through NADA at Northwood Institute in Midland, Michigan, in 1970. Today, he heads the Mitchell Auto Group, which has dealerships in six locations in three Connecticut towns.
“I spent a good period of my youth at the dealership. My grandparents lived next door to our store and the dealership was a way of life,” he remembered.
“During summers my spare time was spent pumping gas, cleaning cars, eventually repairing and selling cars.”
But it was a journey to Sweden to work for Volvo and Saab that shaped his management style, business ethos and ideals. “I think my personal values were greatly formed because of my Swedish experience,” Mitchell explained. “One of the most important values I learned was the Swedish term called lagom, which is basically, seeking the middle. Certainly, leading a modern auto dealership requires looking for balance – and seeking lagom has helped mold me as a more balanced person.”
And he most certainly complements his work life with many community activities. Mitchell has been an active member in Simsbury-Granby Rotary Club since 1985, where he served as president and has received the club’s prestigious Paul Harris Award, an honor for which he is extremely proud. “Our club gives out thousands of dollars in grants and scholarships. We just completed building a park for the children of Simsbury and participate in six concerts with the local symphony every summer,” he said.
In addition, Mitchell has been president of the Simsbury Chamber of Commerce and has been on the board of directors for the Warner Theater in Torrington, Connecticut, since 2004, raising $9 million to renovate the 1932 theater. He also helped raise more than $1 million to build a new child development center in downtown Hartford in 1985. “We insisted that the center stay in the current location as a symbol of hope for those in the troubled neighborhood,” he said.
“The center continues to provide education and support in Hartford’s inner city.”
Mitchell was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year Award by James Fleming, president of the Connecticut Automotive Retailers Association. Mark lives with his wife, Amie, and has a daughter, Jill, who represents the Mitchell 4th generation and handles the events and dealership social media and public relations.
“Auto dealers play such an important role in the strength of local communities across the United States,” said Russi. “They are involved in many philanthropic endeavors, contributing their time and money to improving the lives of people in need. Ally is proud to support and honor these extraordinary dealers and the important roles they play in making their communities better places to live and work,” added Russi.
In its second year as exclusive sponsor, Ally will recognize dealer nominees and their community efforts by contributing $1,000 to each nominee’s charity of choice. Nominees will also be recognized on the recently launched website, AllyDealerHeroes.com, which highlights the philanthropic contributions and achievements of auto dealers across the U.S.
The TIME Dealer of the Year award is one of the automobile industry’s most prestigious and highly coveted honors. Recipients are among the nation’s most successful auto dealers who also demonstrate a long-standing commitment to community service. Mitchell, 64, was chosen to represent the Connecticut Automotive Retailers Association in the national competition – one of only 57 auto dealers from 17,000 nationwide – nominated for the 44th annual award.
The award is sponsored by TIME in association with Ally Financial, and in cooperation with NADA. A panel of faculty members from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan will select one finalist from each of the four NADA regions and one national Dealer of the Year.