May 22—Dale Daniels’ chapter of wheeling and dealing for more than half a century in the Oklahoma City metro closes this week.
Daniels will finalize the sale of the last two Reynolds dealerships in Norman and north Oklahoma City Monday. The closures signal the end of 54 years of building on a brand that began in Norman in 1952 and grew to the north side of Oklahoma City with five dealerships.
Daniels developed his work ethic long before he ever sold a car. He picked up his first job in junior high delivering papers and collecting weekly payments for a publication in Des Moines, Iowa, both mornings and evenings.
Three years of getting up to work at 4 a.m. grew old fast, but money was tight at home.
“The [cold weather] was terrible,” Daniels said.
His parents didn’t have a car, and those snowy cold mornings motivated Daniels to save up for his first car — a 1949 four-door Plymouth he bought for $30 from J.D. McManis, a customer on his paper route.
“You had to push it and jumpstart it to get going,” Daniels said. “It was a rust bucket.”
He bought a more reliable car after graduation and went right to work at a printing press in town. He planned to save money for college.
One Sunday morning at church, a friend and classmate of Daniels’ who had come back to Iowa from college told him about the warmer winters down in Oklahoma. He said that’s all he needed to hear.
Daniels moved to the metro to attend Bethany Nazarene College, now known as Southern Nazarene University. He planned to work through school, but had to put the degree on hold after a while due to the cost. He would eventually graduate with a degree in business management.
In 1968, Daniels began work at Dub Richardson Ford in north Oklahoma City under Lynn Hickey.
“He told me to be there on a Saturday morning at 8 a.m., and he got there at about 9:30 a.m. and put me in this conference room with a little record player and some video slides,” Daniels said. “It would beep and advance the slide with pictures of the cars and a little information about them.”
But it was a follow-up lecture Hickey gave on the five steps to selling a car that Daniels said proved crucial to his future success in the industry.
The first step in the process is the introduction, then determining what a potential buyer’s needs are. Daniels said a genuine approach to both of those steps could make or break the deal, especially since auto dealers in the late 60s fought a negative perception.
“You want to find out how they’re going to drive it, and you have to ask a lot of questions, but you need to make it not so invasive, but when you know the answer to those questions, you can help show them [cars that have] what’s important to them,” Daniels said. “If they drive a lot of miles and it’s a commuter car, they need something economical. If they have five kids, they need something roomy.”
The car salesman then presents the prospective purchases, focusing on the features the client believes are most important. He then shows how the car operates and closes the deal.
That process is one of the constants in Daniels’ 54-year career in the auto sales business.
But the buyer’s search has changed over the years, Daniels said. Because of the internet, prospective buyers don’t go to nearly as many dealerships as they used to, he said.
“Today they look at one or two and it’s over,” Daniels said. “These people come in and they’re well educated on what they want.”
In 1974, Daniels started work at the downtown Reynolds Ford dealership under Dick Reynolds at Crawford Avenue and Eufaula Street. He started as the sales manager.
He bought the original Reynolds dealership in Norman about six years later. After years of strong sales, he purchased the Lincoln, Mercury and Mazda dealership next door. In 2001, he purchased a Ford dealership in Oklahoma City.
Just two years later, management at a Lincoln and Mercury dealer in Edmond asked if he was interested in purchasing the store. His interest was high, so he did. And he wasn’t done.
He later purchased a Kia store, also in Edmond, and a Ford dealership on the north side of Oklahoma City.
Daniels’ daughter, Danielle Thyen, said when her father finally owned Reynolds, she asked if a name change was in the plans.
“He said he didn’t need his name on the business to know it was his,” Thyen said. “He felt that he had invested so much time into building Reynolds Ford into a great company that changing a name would be silly.”
When he sells the two remaining Reynolds stores next week, there will be a name change. But at age 76, he said it’s simply the right time — he can drive away with confidence knowing his team and future customers will be well taken care of due to the values instilled in the company culture throughout the years.
“It’s a place where integrity has meaning,” said Doug Sandlin, used car manager for Reynold’s Ford, who has been with the company for 13 years. “It has a family atmosphere.”
Sandlin said Daniels never hesitated to roam the lobbies and car lots to catch up with employees and meet new and returning customers.
Daniels has plans to spend more time on the golf course and with his family at lakes in Texas and Branson, Missouri.
He opted against a retirement celebration last week. Instead, he spent the last days with his employees, thanking them for their efforts and further building the Reynolds dealership reputation.
“He truly feels that his dedicated employees are the ones who should be celebrated,” Thyen said.
Jeff Elkins covers business, living and community stories for The Transcript. Reach him at [email protected] or at @JeffElkins12 on Twitter.