Reynolds and Reynolds working to be better team player

Dave Bates, previously Reynolds’ vice president of customer support, has moved into the new role of chief customer ambassador. The company said establishing the new position is more proactive than reactive — executives want to get dealers’ feedback on potential changes and bring those ideas back to the leadership team.

Some dealers with recent interactions with Reynolds say they are optimistic but want action to back up the new promises.

Newton Motor Group, with four dealerships in Tennessee and a newly acquired store in Alabama, in February completed its third contract renewal with Reynolds.

Reynolds previously was not willing to budge when Newton sought to adjust its contract, said Mike Abbondanza, co-owner of the group. The hard-line stance sent Newton in search of quotes from competitors, and it was preparing its stores to switch DMS providers, he said.

“We were totally adamant that we were leaving Reynolds,” Abbondanza said of the latest negotiation. “We told them that from the get-go: ‘Bring the cancellation paperwork with you when you bring your proposal.’ ”

Instead, he said, Reynolds came to the table vowing to do what it took to earn Newton’s business. Abbondanza said the bills ended up about 40 percent less.

“We went in ready for a fight, and it wasn’t a fight,” he said. “Which is shocking, if you know anything about Reynolds.”

The shift marks a departure from the centralized leadership style that privately held Reynolds employed for years under Brockman, company leaders acknowledged.

Brockman stepped down as chairman and CEO after federal prosecutors charged him with tax evasion, wire fraud and other crimes. In the transition to Barras’ leadership, the company established a committee of senior executives that now makes decisions collectively with the CEO, Walsh said.

The decentralized approach is in part intended to empower dealership-facing employees to handle retailers’ concerns faster, without having to run them up the chain of command, he said.

Dealers and consultants have described the company’s approach as rigid under Brockman, whose Universal Computer Systems merged with Reynolds in 2006.

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