Ally says auto dealers “play a vital role in the economic fabric of the country.”

But this year’s TIME Dealer of the Year Award celebrates dealers’ “ingenuity and leadership in the face of incredible challenges,” because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ally Auto Finance president Doug Timmerman said in a news release. Ally and TIME on Friday nominated 40 auto dealers for the annual TIME Dealer of the Year Award, which they described as “the most prestigious award in the automotive dealer industry.”

The companies recognized the nominees for 2021 based on leadership in navigating their businesses and supporting their local communities during “unprecedented times.” Dealers nominated for the award were chosen from nearly 17,000 franchised dealers across the country.

One of those dealers is Jonathan Chariff, CEO of South and Vista Motors in Miami, FL. Chariff is known for rolling up his sleeves to advocate for the industry as a whole. He has held leadership positions at the Florida Automobile Dealers Association, the South Florida Automobile Dealers Association and the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Advisory Board.

Chariff is equally committed to philanthropy, corporate social responsibility and community engagement in South Florida. His company has sponsored runs/walks for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and numerous cultural events, including South Motors Jazz at Pinecrest Gardens and South Motors Fine Arts Festival at Pinecrest Gardens. The dealership also supports the Miami Book Fair, a renowned literary festival.

“As part of our sponsorship of the Miami Book Fair, I have donated hundreds of books to underprivileged children to ensure that they too can partake in Miami’s yearly reading party,” he said.

Other organizations Chariff supports include: Amigos for Kids (help prevent child abuse and neglect); Cystic Fibrosis Foundation; American Diabetes Association; Susan G. Komen; Feeding America; hurricane relief groups; and many others.

The dealers, who Ally says have shown “strong business acumen and steadfast commitment to their communities,” will be recognized during NADA Show, which runs online Feb. 9-11.

Ally says auto dealers employ more than 2.4 million Americans with jobs in sales, service and management and contribute billions of dollars to their state and local economies. Auto dealers also support local community groups, charities and hospital boards, Ally said, sourcing “Auto Retailing: State by State, 2020,” from the National Automobile Dealership Association.

Ally also said this year’s award nominees have strengthened their dealership operations over the years while sponsoring local causes such as helping babies exposed to drugs before birth, supporting cancer patients, developing leadership programs for young people to learn about business, and recognizing local school teachers.

“The TIME Dealer of the Year award has been celebrating industry leaders for more than 50 years, but this year is special,” Timmerman said in a news release.

Timmerman added, “This year’s nominees have had to navigate extraordinary circumstances while maintaining their businesses and doing everything they can to support and lift up their local communities. Our country has endured tremendous hardship due to the effects of COVID-19, and this year’s nominees stepped up in ways we’ve never seen before, playing a critical role in bolstering their communities throughout the pandemic. This year’s award celebrates their ingenuity and leadership in the face of incredible challenges.”

Ally will serve its 10th year as the exclusive sponsor and will contribute $1,000 to a 501(c)3 charity of each dealer nominee’s choice.

Award finalists will receive an additional $5,000 for their favorite charities, and the winner will receive an additional $10,000 to give to charity.

Executives from state and metro dealer associations throughout the country nominated the dealers, and each nominee represents their respective association in the national competition.

Ally, in cooperation with NADA, sponsored the TIME awards.

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 the national Dealer of the Year.