National Independent Automobile Dealers Association
Serving Quality Independent Automobile Dealers Since 1946

2010 Paul Claborn

Alabama's Paul Warren Claborn was named NIADA 2010 Quality Dealer of the Year

Surprised is the way Paul Claborn felt after he was named NIADA’s 2010 National Quality Dealer (NQD) of the Year in June.

“The field was so deep with talent,” said Claborn, who operates a pair of dealerships with 22 employees in Albertville, Ala. “I was sitting at a table with Phil Lathrop (the Texas NQD nominee) who is both a scholar and a gentleman. I thought he was a shoe-in for it. I was in awe when I heard all the bios.”

It’s an ironic statement considering Claborn’s contributions to his own community. The 53-year-old Alabama native is active in jail and prison ministries, mentors a young boy each week and takes part in an anti-litter effort along local roads every weekend. Add the duties of running two stores along with his familial obligations and it’s obvious his days are packed. Still, being named this year’s NQD served as a reminder he could still spare some time to give back to the industry.

“I’ve been a member of NIADA since 1984. Because I’ve not been real active, I thought that would play a factor (in receiving the award) but, apparently, it didn’t,” he said. “I need to become more active in the association.”

Claborn and 20 fellow candidates from across the country were judged by a Northwood University panel which looked at a variety of factors to make their selection,


Paul Claborn
of Albertville, AL

View the 2009 National Quality Dealer of the Year Awards Banquet

including contributions to the automotive industry and community involvement. The candidates compete for the national award after being named as quality dealers by their respective state associations.

The drive Claborn has today began after his mother told him as a child he could overcome the ability of some of his classmates to learn quickly by outworking them. He accompanied her to work every at 4 a.m. to a local restaurant, where she was a cook and waitress, and washed dishes for a few hours before school.

In high school, he took a job detailing automobiles at a local independent dealer after classes ended at noon, often working six to eight hours daily and always on Saturday. Thanks to his work ethic, Claborn was able to buy a new 1970 Pontiac GTO for his senior year.

After graduation, he continued his detailing job while taking on a swing-shift position at another nearby business. When it closed in 1981, Claborn opened his first dealership, Paul Claborn Motors, at age 24. Twenty years later, that store became and in 2002, he opened a nearby Buy Here-Pay Here (BHPH) dealership. Last year, the stores combined to sell almost 2,500 autos. According to Claborn, two-thirds of his business is wholesale and mostly done via phone without written contracts.

With a fleet of courtesy cars wrapped in bright, colorful advertising, Claborn knows a few things about marketing, and his staff didn’t waste any time using the NQD honor as a way to promote his business.

“I heard my general manager tell a potential customer this morning we didn’t win this award because we sell the most cars, and we didn’t win this award because we make the most money,” Claborn said. “He said we won this award because a body of our peers thought that we were characteristic of what good citizen, used car dealers should be.”

Integrity is a vital ingredient to Claborn’s personal life and it’s become the foundation of the way he operates his businesses, according to those who work both for and with him.

“The local paper ran an article that said, ‘Paul Claborn wins big in Las Vegas, but it wasn’t at the tables,’” he said. “My people, especially the people who have been with me the longest, know that when I say something, that’s what we’re going to do no matter how bad it hurts. What NQD has done has added validity to what I’ve always told them about the way we need to conduct our business.”

Claborn believes honesty is a vital attribute in business.

“It amazes me that I still see automobile dealers who will tell a little white lie,” he said, “then expect their employees to have a high level of integrity. Man, it starts at the top and if we don’t mimic good character and good habits, we can’t expect to have people who work for us that do the same.”

It’s an attitude that’s reflected in practically everything the dealership does, he said, even something as mundane as a warranty.

“We have a 50-50 powertrain warranty at our Buy Here-Pay Here store that we extend for the length of the contract, whether it’s 36 or 48 months,” Claborn said. “Regardless of whether a customer is current on their payments, we make that payment. People say, ‘How can you do that?’ We do what we say we’re going to do every time.”