Ray Varner Ford gets President’s Award

Sandra ClarkHalls

Ray Varner Ford was notified this week that the dealership has received the 2017 President’s Award from Ford Motor Company. The honor is based on customer service and is a tribute to his entire staff, Ray Varner said. He plans a big party to accept the award, but has not set the date.

Let’s put this in perspective:

Ford’s Atlanta Region has 157 dealers. Only 15 received the award, and Ray Varner Ford was the only dealership in East Tennessee chosen.

Ford has 3,100 dealers overall. Fewer than 10 percent got the award.

The award was initiated in 1998 to spotlight the dealerships with the strongest levels of customer satisfaction. Eligibility is determined by customer surveys regarding both sales and service satisfaction. The award reads in part: “In order to achieve the President’s Award, dealers must exceed customer expectations every day in every department. The pursuit of excellence requires passion, tenacity and hard work.”

Ray Varner says this marks his first time to receive the award in his history with Ford. He is incredibly proud of the team he’s assembled in sales, service and finance.

Ray grew up in Halls, a member of the Varner family on Brown Gap Road. His uncle Jack Varner mentored him at the former Dean Stallings Ford dealership. Now Ray is mentoring Jack’s two sons, Dan and Travis.

“The car business is in our blood,” says Dan. The brothers graduated from Halls High School and East Tennessee State University. Dan worked for his dad in summers. It’s been 10 years since Jack died of cancer. Ray Varner took over management of the dealership in the spring of 2009 and the name was changed in July 2010.

Ray Varner also graduated from Halls High. He started in the car business in 1986 “when I was 3,” he laughed.

Another Halls guy, Fred Kitts, specializes in auto finance.

“We’ve got financing for most everybody,” said Ray. And the dealership offers alternative transportation for customers whose vehicle is getting service.

Trucks are a major inventory item for Ford nationally and for Ford in East Tennessee. You won’t find a better selection anywhere.

“We consistently stock 100 used cars – all makes and models,” said Dan.

Technology has driven change in the auto industry.

“We still operate on a handshake and have customers who are friends for life,” said Ray. “But the Internet plays a role. We can handle both.”

Ray Varner Ford has an internet manager and a presence on social media: Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

The service department is staffed with dealer-certified technicians. Best of all, it’s open on Saturdays.

Community engagement is important to Ray Varner. The dealership sponsors the Ray Varner 50 race at Tazewell Motor Speedway, the rodeo in Union County and the Boys & Girls Club of Halls and Powell. It hosts the annual Tennessee Valley Mustang Club car show.

With numerous sales and promotion events, there’s always something going on at Ray Varner Ford.

What does the future hold?

“We’ll continue to grow our business in East Tennessee. We are dedicated to the Ford Motor Company,” said Ray.

Ray Varner Ford is located at 2026 N. Charles G. Seivers Blvd., just a stone’s throw from the Hwy. 61 exit off Interstate 75. Info: www.RayVarnerFord.com or 865-457-0704.

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