Peter MacDonald is a goodwill ambassador not only for his three dealerships on Prince Edward Island but also for dealerships across Canada.
MacDonald uses the benefits he has reaped from 38 years in business to help friends, customers and the communities he has lived in, in countless ways. And, he says, all dealerships are in a position to do the same.
“I think we have a unique industry — we’re in almost every community, large and small, across the country,” said MacDonald, who recently retired as CEO of the three-dealership MacDonald Automotive Group. He remains dealer principal.
“I don’t know if there is another industry that impacts communities as as we do.”
Philanthropy is a great goodwill-builder, which MacDonald believes pays off in customer loyalty.
“My father used to say you get more out of a $200 donation [to a charity] than a $200 ad in the paper.”
A GROUP EFFORT
Yet profit is not the motive MacDonald said. Instead, any successful entrepreneur needs to donate generously.
“It’s a privilege to do this, but it’s also an obligation.”
MacDonald’s lifelong contributions earned him the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association’s 2023 CADA Laureate for Ambassadorship, but he said such an honour would not be possible without the support of his team.
“When you get awards like this, it’s not really an individual award,” he said.
MacDonald’s philanthropy has had a profound impact on his employees in two key ways: By giving back to the community and also by fostering a team spirit in the workplace. Fundraising and volunteering, he said, “[bring] your teams together and strengthens the culture of your business. A strong, healthy team culture always promotes a strong, motivated staff that have each other’s back and that of the company, going the extra mile to get the job done.”
Staff at MacDonald Automotive Group have done everything from raising money through payroll deductions to holding garage sales for hospital equipment and helping families in need during Christmas, he said. And the company matches the money raised.
“I hope my philanthropy has inspired these actions,” MacDonald said. “I know that they have inspired me as well. Many [staff] functions to raise money have been held on weekends and after hours.”
Gwen Gareau, senior vice-president of CADA’s Laureate award sponsor, iA Dealer Services, said MacDonald’s longtime commitment to his province made him a standout.
“Communities across P.E.I., and the entire retail auto industry, have benefitted greatly from Peter’s contributions as a volunteer, team leader and philanthropist,” Gareau said.
MacDonald’s three dealerships — the only Ford or Ford-Lincoln stores in P.E.I. — are Fair Isle Ford-Lincoln in Charlottetown, D Alex MacDonald Ford in Summerside, about 60 kilometres west, and Fair Isle Ford in Montague, about 45 kilometres east of Charlottetown.
The group is unrelated to the similarly named MacDonald Auto Group based in Sydney, N.S.
Combined, the three dealerships have about 100 employees and sell 800 new and 600 used vehicles a year in Canada’s smallest province, which has a population of 173,000. MacDonald grew up the fifth child in a family of 11 children. His father, D. Alex MacDonald, received the Ford franchise for Summerside in 1961.