Industry Leaders Celebrated at PRO Reception

SEMA Member News—January 2017

By Katie Carson

Industry Leaders Celebrated at PRO Reception

  PRO Manufacturer of the Year
Representatives of Webasto Products North America accepted the 2016 PRO Manufacturer of the Year award.

The Professional Restylers Organization (PRO) held its annual industry awards reception at the 2016 SEMA Show in Las Vegas. The event provided restyling professionals with an opportunity to enjoy an evening of networking in a relaxing environment out by the Westgate Resort & Casino pool deck. The council recognized restyling companies and individuals in its awards ceremony. Four awards were announced.

PRO Manufacturer of the Year: Webasto Products North America

Webasto, founded in Germany in the early 1900s, is one of the top 100 automotive suppliers worldwide. It is best known in the United States as a manufacturer of OEM and aftermarket sunroofs and related products. Over the years, Webasto has acquired a reputation as a quality- and customer-focused company.

The company’s involvement in council activities began in 1988 when Webasto became a founding/charter member of PRO. Several Webasto employees have served (and currently serve) terms on the PRO select committee, sharing expertise and helping SEMA and PRO address various OEM-related issues. Webasto also helped develop the sunroof exam, which was part of the former SEMA Installer Certification Program and provided training for the ASE A6 electrical exam.

Throughout PRO’s long history, Webasto has demonstrated its commitment and support and has made significant contributions to the growth, stature and professionalism of the restyling industry nationwide.

Nat Danas Person of the Year: Jeff Varick, Brandmotion

PRO Person of the Year
Auto Image, represented by Craig Marsh (center left) and Mike Gherardi (center right), was honored as the 2016 PRO Restyler of the Year.

Jeff Varick founded Brandmotion in 2005 with a focus on designing and integrating emerging automotive safety, mobility and convenience features and technology for vehicles already on the road. The goal is to help automotive suppliers leverage and extend their technology into existing vehicles and provide consumers with greater freedom of choice in selecting features and content for their vehicles.

Varick has developed a dynamic company within the resyling segment, and the continual expansion of the brand and product line is a tribute to his commitment to high-quality products. Brandmotion has established strong brand awareness among installers of 12-volt mobile electronics and was recognized for its achievements as the 2015 PRO Manufacturer of the Year.

Varick currently serves on the PRO select committee. During the council’s recent long-range planning meeting, he facilitated a PRO-member tour of Mcity, a unique test facility in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for evaluating the capabilities of connected and autonomous vehicles and systems.

Restyler of the Year: Mike Gherardi/Craig Marsh, Auto Image

Mike Gherardi and Craig Marsh founded Auto Image in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 1991, and it has grown to become the leading restyling center in western Michigan and northern Indiana. They recently opened a second facility near South Bend, Indiana, to accommodate expansion.

  PRO Restyler of the Year
Jeff Varick (center) of Brandmotion received the Nat Danas Person of the Year.

Auto Image has become a valued partner for car dealers from Grand Rapids, Cadillac, Battle Creek, Lansing, Kalamazoo, Holland and all of Michiana by providing vehicle upgrades and profit-building opportunities. Auto Image employs up to 50 people and provides in-house installations as well as on-site installation at dealerships for items that don’t require transportation to headquarters.

Humble and hardworking, Gherardi and Marsh offer the best the industry has to offer and always strive to provide compelling packages for their dealership customers.

Jim Borré Lifetime Achievement Award: Larry Kramer, Texas Auto Tops

PRO Lifetime Achievement
Larry Kramer received the Jim Borré Lifetime Achievement Award. His family accepted the award in his honor.

Larry Kramer founded Texas Auto Tops in 1978 to help Dallas-area dealerships boost sales and improve profitability by providing value-added restyling services. Over more than three decades, the company established a reputation as a top-notch restyling center, offering a full range of appearance products for cars and light-duty trucks.

Kramer joined with other top-tier restylers to form the Group 15 in the ’80s to help elevate the stature of professional restylers nationwide and provide a peer-group forum. Always an innovator, Kramer pioneered many new products in the Dallas market and relied on innovative sales and marketing strategies to position his company as a market leader.

Texas Auto Tops was a long-time member of PRO, and Kramer served on the select committee in the early ’90s. In 2008–2009, the company joined other elite restylers as a charter member of ProPledge, SEMA’s former warranty-assurance initiative. Kramer retired a few years ago and passed away recently following a long illness.

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