My name is John Stewart, and I am the new president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association (TADA), which represents 1,100 car dealerships across Ontario.
I consider it a great honour to be serving my fellow dealers in this capacity. Over the next year, I’ll share my views in this space, and I look forward to covering many topics about the auto industry.
Cars have advanced by leaps and bounds since my grandfather first started working at a Norwood, Ont., garage in 1916. Back then, a new Ford was selling for $495, using horses and cows for transport was the norm, gas was 22-cents a gallon and our phone number was 27.
My father, John James (Jack) Stewart, joined the business in 1936 and, with my grandfather, they sold the Dodge DeSoto. In 1948, he acquired a Ferguson tractor franchise, which would later become Massey Ferguson. In 1966, my brother, Ross, and I partnered with our father, and it became J. J. Stewart Motors Ltd. Unfortunately, Ross passed away in 1985, and my father died in 2016. (He was 102 years old and still came into the dealership daily.)
While attending grade and high school in Norwood, I worked part time at the garage, learning how to pump gas, sand down cars for the body shop and clean vehicles. I then apprenticed in Toronto to obtain my funeral director’s license – but I decided it wasn’t for me. I returned to Norwood and worked at the dealership, first in the service department and then in sales. While working in sales, I would travel the roads prospecting for customers. Quite a change from how business is done today.
In 1983, I purchased Campbellford Chrysler and Jeep Eagle in Peterborough, and later combined the two with Don Earle Plymouth to establish Peterborough Chrysler.
I have two sons, Dave and Mark, who have been my business partners since 1996, and we have continued to grow the business. We acquired the Mitsubishi franchise in Peterborough in 2003, and the Mazda franchise in 2018.
Throughout my family’s decades-long career in the retail auto business, we’ve earned many industry awards, including the prestigious Time Magazine Quality Dealer Award in 1984, as well as numerous accolades from Chrysler Canada. I have served on the Chrysler Dealer Council several times and on the Dealer Advertising Association for 33 years.
We have been members of the Ontario Automobile Dealer Association and TADA for a number of years, and I was the vice president when the two associations amalgamated in 2012. I have also been president of our local Lions Club (I have been a member for 52 years) and president of Norwood Minor Sports.
Over the years, we have contributed to both the Campbellford and Peterborough hospitals, and in 2018 we donated my parent’s home to be used as the Norwood Hospice, a venture that is still in the works. We have also sponsored local minor sports, various service clubs and churches, and were a major contributor to a fundraising toward the building of the new Asphodel-Norwood Community Centre and Ball Field.
All of our dealerships also participate in co-op programs offered through various schools, as well as driver education courses, when they are available.
One of J.J. Stewart Motors’ best assets are our employees, several of whom have been with us for many years. Without them, we would not have been able to serve our customers in a proper fashion. Many of our customers are second and third generation, and their loyalty and support are very much appreciated.
Over the past three years, our industry has faced its share of challenges. I would like to thank TADA’s two most recent presidents, Cliff Lafreniere and Michael Eatson. Both did an exceptional job helping our association navigate the choppy waters of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Looking forward, the Canadian International AutoShow is planning to return as an in-person event in February 2023, after a two-year absence due to the pandemic. I’ll be writing more about it closer to that date.
Until next month, please drive safe.
John Stewart is president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association and is president of J.J. Stewart Motors in Norwood, Ont. This column represents the views and values of the TADA. Write to email@example.com or go to tada.ca. For information about automotive trends and careers, visit carsandjobs.com.
YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN...