Years before Daniel Rey was a master service technician at Garber Buick in Saginaw, Michigan, he was just a kid who loved to tinker around.
He’d pull things apart. Put them back together again. Fix what was broken (or break what was fixed). Then fix it again.
“I loved all of the moving pieces and parts,” Daniel said. “I loved Legos. I took apart a remote-control car and put those parts in a toy boat and tried to get it running.”
One summer afternoon when Daniel was a kid, he took apart his dad’s entire lawn mower.
“My dad got home from work and said, ‘You better get it running again,’” Daniel laughed. “I was 9 or 10. My little butt hurried up and got it working again.”
Now decades later, Daniel is still a fixer and a tinkerer. As part of the Garber technician team in Saginaw for five years – three with Garber Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram on Bay Road and two in his current role with Garber Buick on State Street – Daniel uses his years of knowledge and experience to help teach the next generation of technicians.
His childhood love of fixing things still runs deep – and now, so does his loyalty to Garber.
‘I Must Know What I’m Doing’
While Daniel showed his interest and talents for fixing at a young age, it only blossomed more as he grew older.
“My first job was at Meijer grocery store as a bagger, and all my co-workers wanted their cars to go ‘thump, thump, boom, boom’ with those sound systems,” Daniel said. “I ended up putting in car stereos for all of my co-workers in the Meijer parking lot.”
It was his dad who suggested Daniel take an Auto Shop class in high school. Daniel took the class – he liked the hands-on aspect of it all — and got asked to help out as a lab assistant.
“I’d assist the instructor and that’s when I thought, ‘I must know what I’m doing,’” he said.
Daniel got more affirmation of his skills when he entered a VICA (Vocational Industrial Clubs of America) competition during his senior year. He placed third in the entire competition.
Following high school, Daniel entered Delta Community College’s tech program at the suggestion of his godfather, who also worked as a service tech. Much like high school, Daniel also became a lab assistant for Delta.
Then it was time to enter the working world.
After a three-year stint as a service tech in Bay City, Daniel decided to enter the industry that his parents worked in: the postal service.
He collected more affirmation and accolades from that job, too.
“I became a fleet mechanic in Lansing working for the United States Postal Service ,” he said. “They had a national competition to compete for the ‘Golden Wrench.’ It was where all of the fleet techs who worked for the postal service in the United States competed against each other. You take a 50-question test. I scored in the top 10 of all the techs in the US. Then I flew out to Oklahoma for a hands-on competition. I got third place.”
After riding high from standing out, Daniel accepted a buyout from the USPS after a year. Back in his hometown of Midland, he found a job at a local dealership as a shop foreman.
He stayed for eight years. Then his path crossed with Garber.
Seeing the Benefits
Daniel admits he didn’t have a reason to leave the dealership he was working at – not at first, anyway.
“I was content,” he said. “But a friend became the service writer at Garber on Bay Road and recommended me. I went to dinner with Brian Rousse [service manager at Garber] to learn more. All I knew at the time was Dick Garber owned several stores. Brian kept telling me how great Garber was.”
That’s when Daniel asked a question that changed everything.
“So I said to Brian, ‘Let me see Garber’s benefits package,’” Daniel said. “I have a daughter, so benefits were important. When he showed me, I was like, ‘Wow.’ The other dealership didn’t even come close to these benefits. The fact that Garber matches a percentage for the 401k…the type of the health benefits they offer families…it’s great. We have over 20 dealerships, hundreds and hundreds of employees. We offer a lot.”
“So I said, ‘I’m in. I’m invested now.’”
In 2016, Daniel joined the Garber team. He said the change in the culture was immediate.
“At the other dealership, there were a lot of bad moods,” he said. “At Garber on Bay Road, I met the team and they were so kind and professional and easy to talk to. So great and welcoming. After meeting the team, I had a really great vibe.”
Then Daniel took Gung Ho: a class every new hire goes through to introduce Garber’s value system and culture as a company.
“I got on Google and looked up information about Gung Ho,” Daniel explained. “After reading about it, I thought, ‘This aligns with how I feel. These values. I made a great choice coming here.’ My mind was blown by Gung Ho. I felt like, ‘This is where I need to be. I matter here. My opinion matters here.’”
The Student Becomes the Teacher
Just like vehicles, people can experience wear and tear. Daniel learned he had a degenerative disc disease in his back. He needed to put down the wrench.
“I decided to look for something else, like a desk job that was less physical,” he said. “I was physically tired of wrenching. In 2018, I went to work for Volkswagen to help with dealership tech support.”
He left Garber on good terms – and kept the lines of communication open. Ken Jezowski, Service Manager at Garber Buick in Saginaw, continued to keep in touch with Daniel. He often suggested to Daniel that he return to the Garber team and work at the State Street dealership.
“Ken was instrumental in me returning,” Daniel said. “I talked to my fiancée and said, ‘Do I go back to the dealership?’ She said, ‘Go see what they have to say.’”
Daniel met with Rich Perdue, General Manager at Garber Buick.
“I told him about my physical problems and expectations,” Daniel explained. “He said, ‘Well, we’ve pioneered an apprenticeship program that you could help with.’ I thought, ‘Well, physically I can’t do what I want to do, but I have all of this knowledge that I want to share with others.’”
Daniel returned to Garber. This time, he was wrenching less and teaching more. The Garber apprenticeship program helps give those interested in a tech career path a great opportunity to learn, grow, and get on-the-job training.
“We have four apprentices now, and we train and teach them the skills, even though they don’t necessarily have a formal education,” Daniel said. “I like to recruit people outside of the automotive world. There is a career path for you. We can educate you. We can support you. We have the people and knowledge to help teach you. Apprentices get guidance and encouragement and collective knowledge. Four or five of us here have over 20 to 30 years in the business. That says something about Garber. People stay here.”
So why does Daniel stay here at Garber?
“Garber offers plenty of opportunities: Structure. A path. Encouragement. Work/life balance, which I really appreciate,” Daniel said. “When I worked at other places, I missed things my daughter did. I missed out. But at Garber, I could come in late or leave early if I needed so I wouldn’t miss a performance or practice or whatever. At Garber, your family comes first.”
Daniel also said the facilities are excellent working conditions: both the people AND the places.
“The facilities of our stores are presented well,” he said. “Other places had rats or mice. We don’t have that here. It’s a conducive, inviting work environment. It’s clean. Well-lit. Organized. Communication is a big thing at Garber. We work together across departments well because there’s communication. The people are my favorite part of this place. In two years here, I’ve made lasting relationships that go beyond work. We’re all friends here.”
He said his life has changed for the better since he started working for Garber.
“When I started working for Garber, I became more laid-back,” Daniel said. “I don’t feel nearly as stressed. It’s allowed me to focus on what I need to do and have the freedom to teach other guys all I can. I come to work happy and I go home happy. “
First concert? Brooks & Dunn, Midland County Fair
First car? ’89 Ram Charger. Blue.
Favorite food? Does beer count? 😊 Lasagna.
Three adjectives to describe your personality? Outgoing, helpful, beautiful
Item on your bucket list? Own a Dodge Viper