Gary Dunn is one of a select group of 49 dealer nominees from across the country who will be honored at the 107th annual National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, on February 3, 2024.
The TIME Dealer of the Year award is one of the automobile industry’s most prestigious and highly coveted honors. The award recognizes the nation’s most successful auto dealers who also demonstrate a long-standing commitment to community service. Dunn was chosen to represent the Oklahoma Automobile Dealers Association in the national competition – one of only 49 auto dealers nominated for the 55th annual award from more than 16,000 nationwide.
“Our company was founded on the principle of taking care of the customer first, and 60 years later, we are still focused on that same goal,” nominee Dunn said. “We have generations of families who have never bought a vehicle from anywhere but Dunn Ford.”
A 1969 graduate of Stigler High School, Dunn carved out his career at the dealership founded in 1963 by his father M.H. “Duke” Dunn. “I worked my way up through the business sweeping floors, washing cars, taking out the trash, pumping gas, and anything else that needed to be done,” he said.
After graduating from high school, Dunn became a full-time employee and learned each department, including service, parts, sales, and finance, which gave him the experience and confidence to take over as general manager in 1983. He was named president and dealer in 2003.
“Early in my career, I received a tremendous amount of guidance and support from my father,” he said. “Working for and alongside him for more than five decades allowed me the opportunity to be part of a successful business for many years.”
Today, Dunn oversees Dunn Ford Company while his son Cale Dunn oversees their Chevrolet and GM store in Eufaula, Oklahoma. Gary's niece Alison Sparks assists him at their Ford store, guaranteeing the family to stay involved for generations to come.
“My father emphasized the importance of employing good people and the vital leadership skills needed to thrive in a competitive marketplace,” he said. “I learned to do whatever was necessary to take care of the business, the customers, and the employees.”
He is also a steward of the community where he was raised and works. Dunn lends his time and talent to the Jerry G. Jackson Foundation, a group that funds local activities and construction for community-related projects. Recently, the group purchased ballistic shields for all schools in Haskell County and built a pavilion at the Stigler Sports Complex.
His company has also supplied vehicles to Stigler Public Schools for driver’s education classes since 1967. “Dunn Ford saw a need and went before the school board to propose a plan to provide cars for the program, as well as any special training, to eligible students for free,” he said.
Dunn also helps students who are interested in agricultural careers by sponsoring area FFA programs through donations to local Junior Livestock Shows and Premium Sales.
“The dealership donates to many schools and organizations, but we also support students who participate in livestock shows,” he said. “These donations allow the kids to pay for their feed, veterinarian bills, and other expenses that enable them to afford to show their animals at the events.”
Dunn added, “When your customers see that you genuinely care about the success and growth of your community, you develop a strong relationship with one another.”
Dealers are nominated by the executives of state and metro dealer associations around the country. A panel of faculty members from the Tauber Institute for Global Operations at the University of Michigan will select one finalist from each of the four NADA regions and one national Dealer of the Year. Three finalists will receive $5,000 for their favorite charities and the winner will receive $10,000 to give to charity, donated by Ally.
In its 13th year as exclusive sponsor, Ally also will recognize dealer nominees and their community efforts by contributing $1,000 to each nominee’s 501(c)3 charity of choice. Nominees will be recognized on AllyDealerHeroes.com, which highlights the philanthropic contributions and achievements of TIME Dealer of the Year nominees.
“At TIME, we are proud to uphold the decades-long tradition of honoring automotive dealers who make a positive impact and show dedication to their communities through our TIME Dealer of the Year award,” said TIME CEO Jessica Sibley. “We are excited to keep this tradition of applauding these community contributions together with our partners at Ally.”
Doug Timmerman, president of dealer financial services, Ally, said, “Auto dealers nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to not only the industry but to their respective communities through volunteerism, sponsorships, and supporting charitable causes, no matter the market climate. Whether their clients are purchasing a first car or upgrading for a growing family, these selected dealers have successfully extended their relationships beyond the showroom and have been steadfast in driving their communities forward.”
Dunn was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Peter Hodges, president of the Oklahoma Automobile Dealers Association. Gary has two children, Cale Dunn and Tori Shrum, and six grandchildren.