SIR Peter Vardy, chief executive of motor retailer Reg Vardy, has been honoured for his contribution to the motor industry.

At a ceremony in Birmingham, Sir Peter was announced as the inaugural winner of the AM Industry Personality of the Year award.

He was chosen by AM editor Stephen Briers as the person who made the most significant contribution to the motor industry in 2002.

Presenting him with an engraved plaque, Mr Briers said: "Sir Peter has combined a tireless enthusiasm for his business with extensive work for charity, helping under-privileged children.

"With his roots in the North-East, this man is a shining example of a regional retailer who had the ambition and drive to expand into a nationwide business. His group is also one of the most respected, by his competitors as well as carmakers."

Sir Peter, celebrating 21 years as head of the company his father founded 80 years ago, said he was honoured to be recognised. "While the award has my name on it, it really is a recognition of our 5,000 colleagues at Reg Vardy."

The company itself was shortlisted in the large retailer group category.

Under Sir Peter's leadership, it has grown into one of the UK's biggest and most successful motor retail groups, with 71 dealerships nationwide and an annual turnover of £1.4bn.

In 1990, he set up a charitable trust, the Vardy Foundation, which became the major sponsor of Emmanuel College in Gateshead, where 60pc of the 1,250 pupils aged 11-18, are from areas of high deprivation.

A second establishment, Middlesbrough City Academy, is due to open in September.

Sir Peter was knighted in 2001 in recognition of his services to business and education in the North-East.