When Time Magazine rolled out its Dealer of the Year nominees list recently, a longtime Redlander was among the bunch.
William Hatfield, president of Hatfield Buick GMC, is one of 47 dealers in the country to be nominated for the 49th annual award.
But he can’t take all the credit for the recognition of his dealership, he said.
“We have always been blessed with wonderful employees,” Hatfield said recently while sitting in his office in the downtown Redlands dealership. “We attract and keep a certain type of person who is customer-focused. They stay with us for a long time, and most of my customers have become my friends. All of the civic stuff I do wouldn’t be possible if I didn’t have the great people here covering for me.”
Hatfield, 65, said he learned of the nomination about a month ago and has plans to attend the National Automobile Dealers Association’s 2018 NADA Show in Las Vegas on March 23.
The nomination, he said, came as quite a surprise.
“In our industry, this is the biggest award out there, and there’s lots and lots of dealers more deserving than I am,” Hatfield said. “But this is another good Redlands story because Redlands has enabled me to do the community things I’ve done that caught the eye of the selection committee.
“We are lucky in Redlands,” he continued, “because if you want to be active and want to make a change, you have a ton of opportunities to do it.”
Another thing that caught the selection committee’s eye — Hatfield’s commitment to keeping the showroom open despite being named a “wind-down dealer” by General Motors in 2008. In a news release, Time noted that customers wrote letters of support to GM and government officials without Hatfield knowing.
“It became clear through all of this that we are the community’s dealership, not General Motors,” Hatfield told the magazine.
The move allowed the dealership to celebrate its centennial in 2013. The new year will mark the Hatfield GMC Buick’s 105th anniversary. It is Hatfield’s wish to see it continue to flourish for the next century or more.
Hatfield is a 1970 graduate of Redlands High School. He received a bachelor’s degree in government and history from the University of Redlands in 1974.
A year after graduating from U of R, Hatfield began working full time at his family’s dealership. He grew up working in the family business first as a “lot boy,” washing cars and taking on other tasks, while attending RHS. In college, he worked in the dealer’s parts department and a time later, the service area.
In addition to his work at the dealership, Hatfield is heavily involved in several nonprofits, including the YMCA of the East Valley, Redlands Community Hospital, Rotary Club of Redlands and United Way of the East Valley.
The Redlands Chamber of Commerce named Hatfield its Redlands Man of the Year in 2003.
Hatfield said he hopes his work ethic has set the right example for his two daughters who plan to take over the business in the future.
“When you grow up in a (family-owned) dealership — we actually don’t call it a dealership, this is what we call ‘The Garage’ — it’s something you talk about at the dinner table, and the kids hang out just as we did and worked,” Hatfield said. “The key to this place is everyone does what it takes to take care of the customer. Again, I’ve got some great employees here.”
Time’s Dealer of the Year awards recognize the nation’s most successful auto dealers who “demonstrate a long-standing commitment to community service,” according to a news release. Time officials said Hatfield was nominated by Brian Maas, president of the California New Car Dealers Association.
The award is sponsored by Ally, which will contribute $1,000 to each nominee’s charity of choice.
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