My name is Susan Gubasta, and I am the newly appointed President of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association, representing over 1,100 new car dealers across Ontario.
It is an honour to serve Canada’s largest provincial automotive association in this capacity, and being the first woman to hold this title in the association’s 110-year history is an added honour.
I am also the President/CEO of Mississauga Toyota with 25 years of retail automotive experience.
We all have a story, and the story of Mississauga Toyota began in October 1991. I was a student at the time, and my father, Joe, had just purchased another dealership.
My father started in the car business in the early 1960s. He arrived in Canada as a teenager in the 1950s from Europe with one suitcase and five dollars in his pocket (given to him when he arrived). He started driving a cement truck and then became a mechanic.
My father quickly realized he did not want to be a mechanic and asked if he could try something else in the dealership. He worked many different jobs in the service department, and after a few years, he asked if he could try selling cars. Within six months, he was the top salesperson and was soon promoted to sales manager. Within two years, he bought into his first store.
Fast forward to 1991, when my father had acquired two more stores at once.
We walked through the front doors of the dealership in 1991, and our Toyota journey began. At that time, I had no interest in working in the family business. I was just along for the ride on that particular day. My brother, Paul, who started working in the business part-time at the age of 13, loved cars. He was ready to run the store.
A few years later, after some coaxing from my father (he is relentless), I agreed to try my hand in the business. I worked at our Ford store learning the ropes. I went back to school in the U.S., to learn the operations of the business. After eight years of working in the business, I was promoted to general manager of the Ford store.
Two years later, we sold the Ford store, and after one year working with the new owners, I was tired and unsure of whether to stay in the car business. I decided to take the summer off to figure out, what next?
Six weeks later, in one moment, my family’s life changed forever. My brother, Paul, was killed in an accident. He had grown the Toyota store to sell large volumes, he moved the store to a new facility that was four times the size of our former dealership, and he was a fabulous leader to all of our staff.
The next day, my father and I went to work at 9 a.m., and gathered the staff together in the showroom to announce the news.
Our ‘work’ family took care of the business and supported our immediate family in the coming days. While we were absent from the dealership, our staff did what they needed to do to keep things going.
Four weeks after the accident, my father, my oldest brother, Stephen, and I sat and talked about what we wanted to do with the store. After much soul searching by the three of us, we decided that I would take over. Six weeks after Paul’s passing, I started at Mississauga Toyota on Aug. 31, 2004.
Since then, I have learned many things. Because of my experiences, we have created a culture at Mississauga Toyota that does not take life too seriously. Serious Fun. Seriously.
Over the next year, I look forward to sharing my stories and unique views about dealership and consumer issues in this weekly column.
This column represents the views and values of the TADA. Write to [email protected] or go to tada.ca. Susan Gubasta is president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association and is President/CEO of Mississauga Toyota.
Follow Wheels.ca on