Over the years, the list of AWDA award recipients has evolved into a “who’s-who” of aftermarket luminaries
Las Vegas—The Aftermarket Warehouse Distributors Association (AWDA), a community of the Auto Care Association, recognized the recipients of its annual AWDA Industry Awards on Oct. 29 during the 2023 AWDA General Session which took place in Las Vegas, Nev. The annual AWDA Industry Awards honor individuals and companies who have shown an exceptional ability to educate, innovate, manage and lead. Over the years, the list of AWDA award recipients has evolved into a “who’s-who” of aftermarket luminaries.
Outstanding Leadership Award in Honor of Jack Creamer
Recipient: Mauro Cifelli, president and CEO, Vast-Auto Distribution
Each year, AWDA bestows this prestigious award, formerly known as the “Leader of the Year,” on an aftermarket professional who has contributed to the industry in a unique and significant way. The award is named in honor of former AWDA President, Jack Creamer.
Mauro Cifelli has been a key figure in the Canadian aftermarket for the past quarter century, but in recent years he has taken on a significant leadership role within the United States as well. Cifelli led AWDA through one of the most tumultuous global environments in recent history brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, he worked to advance the Right to Repair, as well as pushed the growth of the Aftermarket Auto Parts Alliance, Inc. within Canada.
Cifelli joined Vast-Auto in 1994 and held a variety of positions there in information technology, sales, marketing and customer service. Cifelli led the company’s Sales and Marketing department and chaired the Alliance’s Sales and Marketing Committee before being selected to lead the company in 2018.
Cifelli has served as the chairman of the Automotive Industries Association of Canada at both the Provincial and national levels. In addition to previously serving as chairman of the board there, he has been a longtime member of the association and frequent speaker at the group’s events. He has held a chair on the University of the Aftermarket Foundation’s Board of Trustees and currently serves as an elected board director and the treasurer of the Aftermarket Auto Parts Alliance. He is also director/administrator for the Quebec Employers’ Center for Occupational Health and Safety. He served on the AWDA board as a governor, secretary, and vice chair before being appointed chairman of the AWDA Board of Governors in 2018. Cifelli led AWDA through the uncertain early days of COVID and led the group in hosting its first ever virtual conference, which was well-received by attendees.
He also used his time leading AWDA to back the technician’s right to repair, a critical issue particularly in 2020, when Massachusetts voters decided whether to back the aftermarket stance in favor of it. He and the Executive Committee determined that the threat of losing access to the mechanical and repair information available today – as automakers move it to wireless platforms – would be a threat to the livelihood of its members’ 1,400 employees in Massachusetts as well as to the entire U.S. auto care industry. Massachusetts citizens voted in favor of the Right to Repair by a 3-1 margin.
In early 2021, AIA Canada announced Cifelli as its Distinguished Service Award winner. The honor is the association’s highest award, presented in recognition of distinguished service and outstanding leadership given to the growth and development of Canada’s automotive aftermarket industry.
Additionally, Cifelli was the 2021 recipient of the AWDA Pursuit of Excellence award which recognizes the special achievements and high standards one sets as an example for others to follow regarding business, volunteerism, and advocacy efforts. Cifelli is involved in every corner of the aftermarket, and it shows.
Lifetime Achievement Award in Honor of Martin Fromm
Recipient: Fred Bunting, co-founder and chairman, Auto-Wares Group of Companies
AWDA’s Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes individuals who have, over the course of many years, distinguished themselves through their unselfish commitment to, and high level of performance within, the motor vehicle aftermarket industry. The award is named in honor of former AWDA President, Martin Fromm.
Over the past half century, few individuals have contributed to the growth and strength of the automotive aftermarket as significantly as Fred Bunting. The industry mogul has created one of the Midwest’s most dominant and reputable warehouse distributors, helped found and grow the Aftermarket Auto Parts Alliance, Inc., served in a variety of industry leadership positions, and, with his company, won nearly industry accolade available.
Based in Grand Rapids, Mich., Auto-Wares boasts roughly 300 corporate and independently owned stores and services nearly 700 Auto Value, Bumper to Bumper, and Confidence Plus Certified Service Centers across five states. The distribution network specializes in extensive inventory, product knowledge, and full-service programs.
Bunting was present at the company’s beginning, when he and two others co-founded Auto-Wares in a small, old facility in Grand Rapids in 1976. He led the company as it joined the Auto Value program group, made its first acquisition, established its collection of specialty companies, and expanded its footprint.
But his aftermarket journey began many years before that, when he was just 14. A third-generation auto parts professional, Bunting began working in the family aftermarket business as a teenager and dabbled in every job in the warehouse. His family sold the business while he was in college, and he started Auto-Wares less than a decade later.
Auto-Wares Group, under Bunting has led the way in educating the industry as exemplified by receiving every major industry education award. Auto-Wares has also thrived in the realm of operations. In 2010, the company was awarded the Polk Inventory Award for its implementation of an improved stock planning initiative which linked VIO data with a third-party inventory system to build market-specific profiles and provided custom inventory models for each, among other initiatives. His commitment to technology advancements for the industry was acknowledged in 2012, with AAIA’s Technology Award at the AAPEX show for his involvement in telematics.
Bunting and Auto-Wares have been members of AWDA for more than 40 years and he has served on the association’s board of governors. He has been a member of the Michigan Automotive Parts Association (MAPA) for over 40 years as well, and formerly held a seat on the University of the Aftermarket Foundation Board of Trustees.
Pursuit of Excellence Award
Recipient: Jennifer Tio, president and CEO, Maximum Marketing
Established in 1983, the Pursuit of Excellence Award is presented exclusively to an AWDA member for special achievement and for the setting of high standards as an example for others to follow, in business and in volunteer or advocacy efforts.
Jennifer Tio joined Maximum Marketing Services, Inc. in 1985 as an account executive and currently serves as the president and owner of the agency. She has spent her career providing communications and consulting services to a wide variety of clients doing business in the motor vehicle aftermarket.
A talented business professional, Tio is experienced in the management and execution of effective marketing programs, from advertising and public relations to sales support and promotions. She is an accomplished focus group moderator and under her leadership, Maximum Marketing Services has been recognized with numerous honors for award winning designs and successful communications programs.
Tio is an aftermarket industry advocate and active in many professional organizations, including the University of the Aftermarket Foundation where she holds the role of executive director.
She has served as president of the Car Care Council Women’s Board (now Women in Auto Care) and treasurer of the Automotive Communications Council.
Tio received an Automotive Aftermarket Professional (AAP) designation and was recognized with the Northwood University Automotive Aftermarket Management Education Award. She has also been honored as Aftermarket Woman of the Year.
A Chicago-area native, Tio earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, and a Master of Business Administration in marketing and finance from Loyola University of Chicago.
Art Fisher Award for Excellence in Education
Recipient: Paul Louwers, president, Automotive Video innovations (AVI) and The Group Training Academy
AWDA’s Art Fisher Award for Excellence in Education is presented annually to an aftermarket company or individual that demonstrates outstanding commitment to education and training, either within their organization or throughout the industry. Given in memory of former AWDA Chairman Art Fisher, the award grants scholarships in the name of the award winner to two students enrolled in the automotive aftermarket management program at Northwood University.
Paul Louwers is the CEO and co-founder of Automotive Video and the driving force behind the concept and execution of Automotive Video Innovations located in Fort Myers, Florida. Since 1994, Paul and his wife, Sherry, have been taking automotive education to the next level by releasing some of the most modern and detailed training videos ever produced. AVI is a technology company that excels at creating training for the automotive industry with an area of expertise in developing and producing relevant content for Service and Repair Centers, Parts Manufacturers, Parts Distributors, and Automotive Schools. AVI has been recognized by automotive industry leaders numerous times and has won several awards for excellence in training.
Automotive Video began producing content solely utilizing DVDs, however it was in 2010 when Paul recognized what was coming and evolved to digital and AVI On-Demand Online was born. Offering training-as-a-tool assessments, companies could manage their entire staff with groupings.
In addition to being the driving force behind the award-winning and very popular GROUP Training Academy, AVI also makes their presence known around the industry. They host BOSCH online content, as well as becoming a key player in the Mobility Garage every year at AAPEX.
Paul stays on the leading edge because he is always pursuing networking opportunities from top professionals, and always looking for content development and instructors.
But online training is not the only commitment Paul makes to the industry, he believes in hands-on training because it is important for technicians to use their hands. Therefore Paul facilitates leader-led, hands-on seminars for professionals because he engages more senses in the training.
Either online or in person, AVI continues to provide the aftermarket with high-end training making certain the technician can apply that training and truly be able to fix a vehicle when they leave.
During his spare time, Paul enjoys fishing and boating around Sanibel and Captiva Islands. He also enjoys watching sports, especially those teams from his hometown of Detroit, Mich.
To learn more about the AWDA Industry Awards and to view previous winners, visit autocare.org/awda.