Detail of an automatic gear shifter in a new, modern car. Modern car interior with close-up of automatic transmission and cockpit background
Today, I would like to extend some Christmas cheer to new-car dealers and their staff.
Some 330 new-car dealers serve a GTA population of 5 million.
Day in, day out, staff do an exceptional job meeting the automotive needs of Canada’s largest metropolitan area.
Dealerships are a microcosm of our multicultural society, employing men and women from many ethnic backgrounds.
In the truest sense of the word, dealers are equal opportunity employers, employing some 20,000 men and women full-time, in an exciting, challenging and rewarding industry.
They also employ people with a wide range of skill sets, from accountants, technicians, service advisers and human resource personnel to sales consultants, marketing specialists and business managers.
Twenty years ago, the educational requirements for working at a dealership were quite modest. Today, those who work in the retail car sector are often college or university educated, computer savvy and well compensated for their skills.
Despite the high profile that dealerships enjoy, with their sprawling faÃ§ades of showroom glass, many unsung heroes work there whom the public doesn’t often see or hear about.
For instance, I know of many auto technicians who have gone out of their way, after hours, to assist customers who have locked keys in their cars or can’t start their engines in the cold.
Sales people and managers routinely put in long hours, after closing time, to finalize the paperwork so that their customers can take possession of their vehicles on time.
The administrative side isn’t very visible or glamorous, but the dedicated professionals who work in this area play a vital role.
Customers may never meet controllers, human resources managers, accounts payable clerks and others when they visit a dealership, but these folks work away diligently.
Many dealerships employ information technology specialists who see to it that computers operate properly. As technologies evolve, such specialists are more in demand every day.
One of the most important administrative roles is the receptionist. This individual is on the front lines and is responsible for establishing a friendly rapport with whomever is calling, whether it’s a customer or a supplier.
He/she is often the first person that a customer or supplier encounters.
Receptionists draw on organizational, communication, computer and listening skills in welcoming callers and steering them to the right person or department.
Despite our fair dealings with customers and our goodwill toward the community, dealerships still suffer from a negative stereotype; people think that we make too much money and always take advantage of customers.
That view is both wrong and unfair.
Judging by the letters and emails dealerships receive, the vast majority of customers are happy with their experiences.
Most dealers receive dozens, if not hundreds, of letters from satisfied customers each month, explaining how pleased they are with their new vehicles or with the service that they have received.
I can’t tell you how gratifying it is for me to hear from a customer who is happy with her new vehicle. Such letters go into great detail, describing the entire sales process from the initial contact with a salesperson, to accepting the keys to the new car and driving away. Who says letter writing is a dying art?
Here’s an aspect of new-car dealers and their staff that often goes unnoticed: Their corporate largesse and their generosity in giving back to the communities in which they serve.
Each year, dealers in the GTA donate about $2.5 million to local charities, including 750 sponsorships to more than 22,500 amateur sports teams.
The Toronto Automobile Dealers Association supports dozens of organizations, such as Big Brothers, Easter Seals, Cancer Foundation, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Hospital for Sick Children, Police associations, Toronto Firefighters Association, YMCA and many more.
This tradition of giving stretches back more than 90 years.
Every year, employees initiate their own fund-raising drives to lend financial support to causes within their communities.
I’m amazed at how generous employees are when it comes to volunteering their time or expertise in supporting local causes.
So, this holiday season, let’s acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the people who work in the retail car industry.
These people are your friends, relatives, neighbours and acquaintances.
They perform an outstanding job within our industry, and it’s time that we salute them.
On behalf of the TADA, here’s wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday season!
Robert McMillan, president of the Toronto Automobile Dealers Association, is a new-car dealer in Toronto.
This column represents the views of TADA. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.tada.ca