Pub. 2 2022 Issue 2

Time and Ally Financial have honored James Johnson as MTADA’s nominee for the 2023 Time Dealer of the Year. Presently, he is the dealer for High Plains Motors in Wolf Point and Glasgow Auto Sales in Glasgow, Montana. The Time Dealer of the Year award is one of the automobile industry’s most prestigious and highly coveted honors, and recipients are among the nation’s most successful auto dealers. James recently discussed his life, career, the auto industry, and his family. After graduating from high school – where he was voted “Most Likely to Be a Car Dealer” by his senior class – he attended Montana State UniversityNorthern, where he received degrees in Autobody and Automotive Technology. He also has his real estate and broker’s licenses. He dreamed of someday owning a body shop and perhaps a used car dealership. Although he did not grow up in a dealership environment, he had three uncles and two cousins who worked in the used car business. “My family was full of business people,” he explained. “Both of my grandfathers were businessmen, and my parents had their own businesses.” And he aspired to also – one day – own his own business. While he attended college, he worked in the body shop for Rathert-Fox Ford on weekends and during the summer months. It was here that he really gained an appreciation for the dealership setting. However, he still wanted to further his education, and he interned at State Farm Insurance during the summer of his junior year. As part of obtaining an “A” grade in Auto Shop Management class, he interviewed with the corporate headquarters of General Motors in Detroit, MI. He was offered a job but decided it didn’t exactly fit into his career path. He envisioned a career that would allow him to stay in and around Montana, so he continued to work for State Farm, though now as a paid employee. That particular 13-year career garnered him promotions and the opportunity to live in three different states while keeping him relatively close to Montana. James’s career has been impacted by some amazing individuals. In the fall of 2002, he moved back to Wolf Point, where he worked beside his father, Gary, in the State Farm agency. “My Dad was a great businessman. I always joked with my friends that he was the mayor because he knew everyone in northeastern Montana.” Now that he was back in Wolf Point, James was asked to sit on the board of the Missouri River Development Corporation. His work centered on bringing new businesses to the area and helped preserve the established businesses. When he worked with this particular group, he became friendly with Mr. Marvin Presser. “Marvin and I would have great conversations about Wolf Point, Fort Peck Lake and the car business,” James said. “As we visited, I realized I might be able to obtain that dream I’d had years before to be in the car business.” And one day, they struck a deal. On July 2, 2007, his 35th birthday, James made a leap of faith – leaving the known to begin a new adventure. He partnered with Marvin and his son, Jeff, and joined High Plains Motors. “Marvin taught me everything he knew about the business,” James said. “And in the fall of 2011, I was named dealer by General Motors.” Marvin passed away in 2015, and James declared, “He left us with a great business and many life lessons to live and teach others.” James’s leap of faith continued. At the end of 2019, he’d heard that the Newton Brothers from Glasgow, MT, wanted to sell their dealership. Using the business acumen obtained from his father and Marvin, James approached the brothers about the sale, and in March 2020, Jeff Presser, Paul Wemmer and James made an offer. “We took over operations,” James said, “and I was named dealer in May 2021.” His senior class had it correct: “Most Likely to Be a Car Dealer,” indeed. James sees some dominant trends in the next 5 to 10 years in the auto industry. “Everyone is talking about the electrification of the auto industry. We are definitely going to see that segment grow, but I think we will also see some JAMES JOHNSON TIME DEALER OF THE YEAR NOMINEE 10