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What is a Certified Master Dealer?


The CERTIFIED MASTER DEALER™ program was developed to help you manage and grow your business. It is one of the industry’s most respected training programs. Independent Dealers who attend this training are committed to the industry, support ethical business standards and practices, and are leaders in their communities. They bring a wide range of experience to each class, and leave with new strategies for analyzing their business practices and increasing their bottom line. 

This course is designed and delivered in a manner proven to be highly effective and successfully completed by CMD candidates without regard to their previous academic background. 

Automotive Excellence

NIADA’s Certified Master Dealer® Program dates back to 1990 with Harold Rockwell, and was redesigned in 2001 in collaboration with Northwood University. Its design was based on the independent dealer’s world of management, merchandising, finance, human resources and business planning. The program was delivered over several days of intensive training, in-person and with a final written exam on the last day of instruction.

It has a record of 270 dealers receiving this designation. However, the program has been dormant since 2019. NIADA looks to revitalize the CMD program in 2023. 

NIADA President Gordon Tormohlen talking from his dealership in Freeport, Illinois.

Course Components

NIADA’s revitalized CMD is a 12-month program. The cumulation of the program is a capstone where dealers will present their business plan and take a comprehensive exam.

There are three different levels of courses that make up the program: 


Level I

In-person, 1-day class at the Annual Convention & Expo in Las Vegas.

Level II

Live, online 2-hour classes with self-study and online assessments.

Level III

In-person, a 2-day class with an extensive business plan review and final exam at NIADA Headquarters, Irving, Texas.

Participants will participate in a 1.5-day in-person AFIP Used Car Certification Course and must pass the certification exam. Participants must attend NIADA's National Policy Conference, Annual Convention, and their state's convention or annual event while enrolled in the CMD program.

Participants will meet with the CMD instructor for 30 minutes monthly for individual coaching.

Graduates will be partnered with a mentor (a prior CMD) for 1 year following graduation.

Graduates must submit 4.0 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) every 2 years to maintain their certification. Ten contact hours equals 1 CEU. Continuing education may be achieved by attending NIADA and state events.

Curriculum Outline

a. Level I: Auto Dealership 101

i. Value Proposition
ii. Dealership Structure (Sales, F&I, Fixed 0ps, HR)
iii. Business Canvas Model (Northwoods)
iv. Business Planning (General mgt, Financial measurement, marketing, capital mgt, business insurance)
v. Approach to Selling: Transaction vs. Relational

b. Level II: 8 Critical Topic Courses

i. Dealership Business Models
ii. Basic Dealership Accounting
iii. Expense Control & Asset Management
iv. Fixed Operations
v. Variable Operations

vi. Service Management
vii. Marketing Management
viii. Business Leadership  

c. Level III: CMD Capstone

i. Business Plan Evaluation
ii. Financial Accounting & Measurement
iii. Effective Marketing and Merchandising
iv. An Introduction to 20 Groups

v. Goal Setting and Managing Growth 

d. AFIP Certification: Used Car Dealership

i. Understanding the Law
ii. Contracts: Elements of a Contract
iii. Truth in Lending Act & Regulation Z
iv. Consumer Leasing Act & Regulation M=
v. Rules Common to Regulations Z & M
vi. FTC Credit Rules
vii. FTC Used Car Rule
viii. Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) & Regulation B
ix. Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
x. Protecting Nonpublic Personal Information
xi. IRS / FinCEN Form 8300 Cash Reporting
xiii. Federal Do-Not-Contact Rules
xiv. Federal Odometer Act
xv. Vehicle Insurance
xvi. Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act & Vehicle Service Contracts
xvii. GAP Protection
xviii. Ethics
xix. State Laws

“I learned so much. I ended up with so many takeaways to help my business be successful. I know I’m a better leader and everybody’s going to benefit, from my team to myself to the customers I do business with.”

Otto HahneCity of Cars (Troy, Michigan)