So for the next year, while the 57-year-old dealer is widely known as the 2005 NIADA National Quality Dealer, he says the more appropriate way to refer to him is owner of a quality dealership run by quality people in a quality state. Actually, for Lyle, it's two states. He owns Nice Cars, Inc., in Chattanooga , Tenn. , and along with his two sons, Ray Lyle II and Robert Lyle, they operate five dealerships in Tennessee and Georgia .
“I know that when I go back to Tennessee and show everybody this plaque, they're going to be very happy and very proud – just as proud as I am,” Lyle says. “I think it's much more of a reflection of the whole dealership than just one person. They go about their work with character and always strive to serve the customer. This is for them.”
Lyle was one of 22 dealers to be nominated for the National Quality Dealer award. The winner is chosen by a panel of judges from Northwood University .
To be a candidate for this award, certain criteria must be met.
The candidate must adhere to the NIADA Code of Ethics, be a long-time, supportive member of the state and national associations and have the necessary credentials to compete at the national level. He or she must support NIADA by attending state and national association-sponsored events, volunteering their time to Association related duties and sharing knowledge, talent and experience with those involved with the used motor vehicle industry.
In addition, each candidate must offer exceptional service to customers and maintain the highest standards as they relate to employee and business associate relationships. He or she must be highly respected, enjoy a good personal and business reputation and be involved in the local community.
One of Lyle's long-time employees, Cherrie Dodd, who works in the Rome , Ga. , dealership, said the award going to Lyle is no surprise because of how he treats staff and customers.
“We're very proud because, even though we have different jobs, we all have the same goals and feel like part of a team,” she said. “This award says that we're outstanding, and here, we really do feel like we're number one.”
Those who know Lyle would agree that meeting those criteria has never been a problem, says NIADA Executive Vice President and CEO Michael R. Linn.
“Ray Lyle personifies what an independent automobile dealer should be,” Linn says. “He is a dedicated leader with a reputation for hard work within his community and his business.”
Lyle opened his first automobile dealership in 1998. He is a CPA who graduated from the University of Tennessee and is working on his Master's degree in Business Administration. He has been a member of NIADA for seven years and has served both the Tennessee IADA and Georgia IADA as a member of their boards of directors.
Lyle is also an NIADA “Certified Master Dealer” (CMD). Lyle says the most important part of the used motor vehicle industry – and in particular, the independent dealer – is the niche they fill in the market. In fact, Lyle says he probably takes too many chances when financing cars through his Buy-Here, Pay-Here dealership.
“Not everybody can afford to buy a new car or get financing easily for a used vehicle,” Lyle said the night of the awards banquet. “But those folks need a car just as much as everybody else needs one. They have to get to work. They have to take the kids to school.
“The independent dealer provides a valuable service. I lose too much money every year taking chances on people who come in to buy cars from me, but to me it's worth it. What we do is very important.”