Archive for Monday, January 6, 2014

Longtime auto dealer Dale Willey retires

January 6, 2014


The name remains, but Dale Willey has handed over the keys to Lawrence's Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac dealership after a 43-year ride.

Willey, 72, recently retired, transferring ownership to Greg Maurer, who has been working at Dale Willey Automotive, 2840 Iowa, for the past 21 years.

Asked how many vehicles he has sold during a lifetime in the auto business, Willey said, "I haven't a clue. I'll just say enough to stay in business."

Willey started working in his father's dealership in Lee's Summit, Mo., in the 1950s and 1960s.

When his father died suddenly in 1965, Willey continued selling cars and in 1970 bought a dealership in Lawrence.

Since then, he said, he has seen a lot of changes in automobiles and the business of selling them.

Basically, he said, cars are more expensive now, but they are much better and last longer.

"Used to be when we had extreme temperature changes, that would bring out the worst in cars and trucks. But today weather has no bearing," he said.

Willey has weathered recessions, inflation, and the near collapse of the Big Three automakers.

He said just about every 10 years, the car industry gets rocked by a scare. "How you manage those down times determines how well you maintain your business," he said.

The dealership has won awards for customer satisfaction from General Motors, and Willey has served in multiple positions on the Kansas Automobile Dealers Association board.

In 1993, Maurer started working with Willey and soon became a financial partner. Through a contractual agreement, Maurer became the owner last month.

"Greg is a very wonderful guy," Willey said.

Maurer said he will keep the Willey name on the dealership and doesn't expect much to change. "We got along well," Maurer said of Willey. "It doesn't seem like it has been 21 years," he said.

Willey said he has no definite retirement plans other than to "stay healthy and be active."

He's involved with his church, Family Promise, which helps homeless families, and Junior Achievement.

He and his wife, Jan, have five daughters, who all live nearby, and six grandchildren.

As far as the future of the car business, Willey said he expects the next few years will be "dynamite" because the economy is rebounding. "When we get more jobs and good stable incomes, people are going to be buying," he said.


Greg Cooper 4 years, 5 months ago

Happy retirement, Dale. It's guys like you who give the business legitimacy. I'm a competitor, but admire the way you have endured and prospered. Your work in behalf of the industry as a honcho in NADA fostered legitimacy for the car business and was appreciated. Have a good life of (?) leisure.

Kent Fisher 4 years, 5 months ago

Have a happy, healthy retirement Dale! Thanks for all you've done for the industry, our community, and for me personally.

Andrew Dufour 4 years, 5 months ago

I've only purchased two cars in Lawrence in my five years here one of which was from Dale Willey. I don't know how much of it was deliberate but my wife and I couldn't have been happier with the atmosphere and salesman we dealt with. Maybe we just had an especially good salesman but we were a young couple buying our first car and in no way felt like we were pressured or taken advantage of. If the salespeople there are trained like that then nothing but accolades for Mr. Willey.

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