Robert Mulkey, owner of Regal Car Sales and Credit in Tulsa, earned the industry’s top honor when he was named the 2007 National Independent Automobile Dealers Association (NIADA) National Quality Dealer of the Year. Mulkey was recognized at the annual NIADA Convention and Expo in Nashville, Tenn., at the Gaylord Opryland Resort. Mulkey was selected from 24 of the nation’s best independent dealers. He demonstrated an outstanding commitment to quality, customer service, community involvement and to the used motor vehicle industry.
Mulkey’s first career after he graduated college was in the hospitality industry, a far reach from the used car business that he has now been a part of for 22 years. He was managing a Hilton in Tulsa when the owner of a Buick dealership offered him a management position. Initially his response was a quick no. Then, the owner told him the salary range. Within half an hour, Mulkey was at the dealership ready to start talking about the job. It was an insightful move; during the first three years of his new career, the dealership was named one of the top 100 service departments from more than 3,500 Buick dealerships nationwide.
His manager later asked him to shut down an under-performing dealership. He soon realized it was just poorly managed. He made a deal with the owner: if at the end of two years, he had recovered the owner’s original investment, he’d have the option to buy half of the company. Mulkey’s plan worked and in 1988, he found himself part owner of Regal Sales and Credit.
Today, he’s expanded his business to include 10 locations throughout Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri. He built his business on a foundation of customer service, a message he extends to his employees when he ends every meeting by saying, “Take care of the customers and they will take care of us.”
Mulkey attributes the dealership’s success to his satisfied customers and his commitment to his employees. He believes that selling a car is just the beginning of a relationship with a customer. Sixty percent of his business stems from repeat customers or direct referrals. Every vehicle he sells is inspected by an ASE Certified Technician and is covered by his free 12 month or 12,000 mile limited warranty. His approach is to help customers buy a car they need and can afford. It’s evident he’s been doing a lot of helping selling more than 3,200 vehicles last year alone with gross sales of $35.5 million.
Mulkey and his wife, Robin, live in Tulsa. He’s donated funds to two local high schools, supports Big Brothers Big Sisters, Toys for Tots and has served on the Catholic School Board for six years. He also provides college tuition assistance to his employees’ children. When Hurricane Katrina left behind the broken lives of so many people, he helped a mechanic pick up the pieces by offering him a job, buying him new tools and paying for his first month’s rent at an apartment.
Mulkey was one of 24 dealers representing NIADA state associations from across the country to be nominated for the National Quality Dealer award. A panel of judges from Northwood University in Michigan evaluated all the entries and selected this year’s winner. NIADA began the long-standing annual tradition of naming a National Quality Dealer in 1976.