NEW YORK — TIME, in partnership with Ally Financial, announced on Oct. 22 that local vehicle dealership owner Wally Thornhill has been nominated for the 2020 TIME Dealer of the Year Award.
Thornhill, president of Thornhill GM Superstore, a Buick, Chevrolet and GMC dealership in Chapmanville, is one of a select group of 49 dealer nominees out of more than 16,000 nationwide who will be honored at the 103rd annual National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) show in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Feb. 15, 2020.
“As a hometown business owner, I feel that the most important thing I can do is help build a stronger community,” Thornhill said via press release. “I am particularly focused on giving children the opportunity to succeed in academics and athletics.”
Thornhill is a 1975 graduate of Logan High School. He earned an associate degree in science and general business from Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College in 1985.
He began working in the eighth grade under the supervision of his father doing auto body work. In high school, he started his own gas station and auto repair business and continued to run the establishment while attending college.
“The business prospered, and I purchased real estate and diversified my portfolio,” Thornhill said. “I ran a salvage yard with towing service for 11 years, opened three pharmacies, invested in real estate and was a member of a small local bank board.”
But he always dreamed of being a car dealer. In 1996, he bought into a local Pontiac Buick GMC dealership — the same store where his father had been an auto body technician in the 1960s. Thornhill helped turn the business around and became the dealer principal in 1998.
Today, his Thornhill Automotive Group oversees four new car dealerships: Thornhill GM Superstore, Thornhill Ford Lincoln and Thornhill Mitsubishi in Chapmanville and Thornhill Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in Logan. His daughter, Sydney, and son, Nathan, are dealer executives for the stores.
An active member of the West Virginia Automobile Dealers Association, Thornhill has served as chairman and a board member. He is the current NADA PAC state chairman, a position he’s held since 2014.
“I think it is important to understand the national economy and legislative processes,” he said. “As a dealer, it’s essential to be involved in our industry on a state and national level – and to interact with other dealers. The more we know, the easier it is to plan for the future.”
Thornhill said he is most proud of his work developing the Chief Logan Recreation Center in Chapmanville, for which he currently sits on the board. The complex features an indoor competition swimming pool, tennis courts, workout rooms and more.
“The local recreation center was built to get more young kids and families out and exercising for better health,” he said. “It has also opened up the availability for more sports teams to be added to local schools, including swimming and soccer.”
Other groups Thornhill contributes to include Kiwanis International; Logan Civic Little League; Boy Scouts of America Buckskin Council; Logan County Chamber of Commerce; Logan County Parks & Recreation Committee; First Presbyterian Church of Logan; the Logan High School Improvement Council and to local schools for uniforms, books, backpacks and more. He also donates to the Marshall University Foundation and was also recently inducted into the Logan High School Hall of Fame as a booster.
A panel of faculty members from the Tauber Institute for Global Operations at the University of Michigan will select one finalist from each of the four NADA regions and one national Dealer of the Year. Three finalists will receive $5,000 for their favorite charities, and the winner will receive an additional $10,000 to give to charity. Nominees will also be recognized on AllyDealerHeroes.com.
“The award applauds the incredible effort each of these dealers put into their businesses and their communities,” said Doug Timmerman, president of auto finance at Ally. “They are influential business leaders and admired ambassadors for worthy causes.”
Thornhill was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Jared Wyrick, president of the West Virginia Automobile Dealers Association. Thornhill and his wife, Martha, have three children.