The Unobvious Ones is a monthly look at the engines and agitators going under the radar in the Canadian auto industry.
MORE THAN CARS, IT’S ABOUT PEOPLE
To improve the customer experience, Porsche Canada is working with its dealers on training programs. For this, it relies on the head of Porsche People Excellence and Training, Julianna Morris.
“It’s a combination of HR practices to ensure consistency as the industry evolves,” said Morris, 51, who is based in Toronto. “A customer can view Porsche products or speak to a member dealer online. Dealers use this digital plan with our advice. We make sure they are familiar with our product and how they address our customers and their relationship with them.
The programs include management training, virtual coaching, employee certification and qualification programs, the integration of new roles in dealerships and ‘future proof’ dealerships to sell electric vehicles as and when. as it is deployed.
“The programs come from Porsche AG [in Germany], and I add the nuances to make sure it works for our market. I am the hub between Germany and our dealers, and we are deploying [the programs] to resellers and accompany them throughout the journey.
Morris first studied fine art and performed in community theater and in short films. While supplementing her income working in customer service at American Express, she took apprenticeship development courses and eventually spent 22 years in human resources at Royal Bank and TD.
Porsche AG created its role.
“They wanted someone with a different mindset,” Morris said. A banking customer familiar with Porsche Canada told her about it and she joined the company in 2018.
“The challenge is resellers are very good at selling and knowing their product, but now it’s about people development. It’s about recruiting the best talent and training them on the product, as opposed to someone who knows the car but doesn’t have good customer relationships. We want to connect with our customers, rather than just selling them a car. “
SUPPORT FROM TIRE COMPANIES HELPS AUTOMOTIVE DEALERS COMPETE
Despite the importance of tires, they can be a tough sell for car dealerships with customers who just want the cheap. At Yokohama Tire Canada in Brampton, Ont., Jason Clarke, Regional Sales Manager for Ontario and Western Canada, gives franchised auto dealers the help they need.
“I am developing our activity as a dealer and looking for new [automaker] nameplates to reach us with national accounts. We have a corporate sales manager, Brandon Saunders, who manages the day-to-day operations of our car dealership business through the teams that have direct contact with the dealerships, and he reports to me.
Clarke, 50, began her career in project management at a construction company. Eager to try something new, he responded to a job offer at Bridgestone in 1997, working under contract in customer service.
He joined Yokohama two years later after finding an opportunity there.
“I was interested in a sales position, but they wanted me to be in customer service for a year to learn the trade and their brand. A year later, to date, they put me on the road. I was an Account Manager for Southwestern Ontario, dealing with consumers, businesses and OTR [off-the-road] tires for 13 years.
In 2012, as Yokohama’s car dealership business grew, Clarke became the Director of Business Development.
“Car dealers really took over the tire business at the time, and I was involved in the introduction of [automaker] nameplates. I had contact at headquarters with car manufacturers, and they went to their dealers. But by 2015 our business had grown so much that we had to [send our sales teams] directly in dealerships.
Clarke’s accounts include 11 automakers, and its teams provide product training to dealers.
“Dealers have learned that tires are an important part of the business, not just the tire, but taking it apart to check other things. We help them serve their customers.
IT WAS PUT IN HOCKEY, BUT BUSINESS WINS
Maintaining the competitiveness and profitability of service contract programs is one of the many tasks that Joe Korab performs as Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Global Warranty, based in London, Ontario.
The company offers vehicle service contract products to franchise dealers for sale along with their used off-brand models.
It also offers products such as gap insurance and vehicle protection packages. In general, GAP insurance covers the difference between the amount owed on a vehicle and its valuation in the event of write-off, as a result of a collision or theft.
“I oversee all the sales and marketing activities of our field teams,” said Korab, 50. “We have teams across Canada. My typical day is a lot of meetings. We have a number of products at different levels and I play a key role in shaping the programs and how we are going to implement them.
Korab played hockey in college but couldn’t make a professional career out of it, so he studied business. He was hired by Chrysler Canada in 1996 and served as a District Representative for six years. He then became a sales manager at a Chrysler dealership, then moved to British Columbia from Ontario at the corporate level to Honda and then Hyundai.
He returned to retail, including a Vancouver-based Audi store. But when he and his family returned to Ontario, “a headhunter knocked on the door with the job I have now, which I took on in November 2018”.
It’s an extremely competitive industry, and there is a constant eye on its rivals, he said. “Right now we’re revamping our tire and rim protection packages, so I’ll be looking at the claims to see which parts are failing, what it’s costing us and what we have to charge. We are constantly examining where we stand in terms of price and coverage, and what makes us different.
He attributes his success to his experience. “I have been in the retail business and [with automakers], and I know what drives them because I’ve been there. The best product is not synonymous with success. You also have to have great people and a good process.