The scene is from one of 52 meetings held around the country from February through early May and designed to give top corporate executives face time with employees. It was the first series of such meetings, but Sonic is making the meetings an annual campaign dubbed "Carpe Diem" -- "seize the day" in Latin.
"We decided to do this because there was a need for communication," Dyke said in an interview. "Nobody in the industry does what we're doing. It involves every store, every associate. People have full access to us."
Dyke says the meetings aim to improve job satisfaction.
Overall turnover on an annualized basis was running 24 percent in April, though Sonic's ultimate goal is to hack that to less than 15 percent, he says.
By comparison, Penske Automotive Group's overall employee turnover was 22 percent in 2009, and it's tracking lower than 22 percent so far this year, Senior Vice President Tony Pordon says. The figure includes Penske's operations in Europe, where turnover tends to be lower than in the United States. Sonic has no European operations.
The meetings are optional, but every employee in the 100-store network is invited, and Sonic has tallied 98 percent attendance, Dyke says. There are two meetings in each major market so that half the employees can attend in the morning and the other half in the afternoon.
Typically, top executives such as Scott Smith, Sonic's president, and Rachel Richards, vice president of retail strategy, and the division heads for parts and service, used-vehicle sales and finance and insurance deliver detailed presentations on the company and its future.
They all dress casually. As each one speaks, a humorous photo of that person flashes on a large screen along with the person's name, title, phone number and e-mail address.
For example, in Tysons Corner, Dyke shows up in a red cardigan as Fred Rogers of the old children's TV show, "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood."
A question-and-answer session follows each presentation, and the employees have the opportunity to write questions anonymously on forms distributed before the meetings. Employees are rewarded for their participation with Bruton bucks, which are converted to real money in their paychecks.
Louis Blount, an automotive veteran of 16 years, has been working for Sonic 18 months and has collected $700 worth of Bruton bucks during the Tysons Corner meeting.
"I like this meeting because I wouldn't otherwise have the chance to meet Jeff. He's a great guy," Blount says. "You spend more time with your automotive family than you do your regular family. It should be an enjoyable experience."