Kitty Van Bortel is the 2016 Time Dealer of the Year.
Van Bortel, 61, received the award at the convention on Friday. She owns Van Bortel Subaru in Victor, N.Y.
Fifty auto dealers were nominated.
The program honors franchised new-vehicle dealers for exceptional performance in their dealerships and distinguished community service. A panel of faculty members from the Tauber Institute for Global Operations at the University of Michigan selected four finalists and then a national winner.
The award is presented by Time magazine in partnership with Ally Financial and in cooperation with NADA. Ally, the exclusive sponsor, has donated $1,000 to the charity of choice of each of the 50 nominees. It will provide $10,000 to a nonprofit selected by Van Bortel.
Van Bortel started her career as a salesperson at Ridley Ford in Webster, N.Y., and later was a sales manager at a Mercedes-Benz and BMW store in Rochester, N.Y. Eventually, she opened a used-car lot.
“I rented a house, lived upstairs and sold used cars … in the front yard,” Van Bortel said. “I gave up everything to make my business work. I had a relentless drive to prove that a woman could get to the top in this business.”
In 1991, she opened Van Bortel Subaru. “I vowed to make it the largest-volume Subaru dealership in the nation,” she said, “and … we did it.”
The business later expanded with Ford and Chevrolet dealerships.
A breast cancer survivor, Van Bortel spreads the word about the importance of early detection and supports the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester.
In 2005, Van Bortel was named one of the 100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry by Automotive News. She has received many other honors, including the 2011 Athena Award from the Women’s Council, an affiliate of the Rochester Business Alliance.
The other finalists were:
- Phil Meador, 66, of Phil Meador Toyota in Pocatello, Idaho.
- Kevin Reilly, 46, of Alexandria Hyundai in Alexandria, Va.
- Diane Sauer, 61, of Diane Sauer Chevrolet in Warren, Ohio.