It’s far from the first time these dealerships have faced challenges. In the first two years of the Second World War, Baker said, Ontario Motor Sales sold just two cars. To stay afloat, staff waxed turnips, which were then sent to soldiers overseas.
Roy Nichols Motors, meanwhile, faced an existential challenge in 2009, Owen said. GM Canada was closing dealerships while the U.S. parent company was in bankruptcy.
Remaining dealerships were pressured to build new showrooms to upgrade their branding.
“They [GM representatives] told me, I’d have to put up a new building or you’re out,” Owen said. “It was at the worst possible time.”
After deciding to build the new dealership, “I was on pins and needles,” he said. “It was a tough time.”
Both dealerships attribute their success to doing the hard work of building loyal staff and providing a level of customer service that leads to word-of-mouth endorsements.
Of the staff of about 115 at Ontario Motor Sales, one employee has been with the company 66 years and another for 52 years, said Baker, who began at the dealership a a teenage “lot lizard” washing cars and sweeping the lot.
Baker also notes the dealership’s commitment to the community.
“We worked really hard to remind people we were in this business through thick and thin,” he said.
‘MAKING MONEY’ AND ‘DOING WELL’