John Muratori, COO of Auto Export Corp. (AEC), is based in Munich, Germany, and oversees offices in Turin, Italy, and Antwerp, Belgium.
How a Canadian company quenches Europe’s thirst for North American-made Stellantis vehicles
Canadian ambition lays the groundwork for a network of 150 dealerships
"Canadians Abroad” is an occasional feature that spotlights Canadians working in the auto industry in other countries.
The native of St. Catharines is involved in every aspect of importing, preparing and selling the North American-made Stellantis auto brands in the European Union’s 31 member countries as well as the UK.
AEC purchases the vehicles from Stellantis, imports them, puts them through homologa- tion — conversion to meet local laws — and then retails them through 150 AEC- branded dealer- ships, Muratori said.
All but one are operated through contractual partnerships, similar to franchises. AEC has 240 employees, including 15 in Munich at the only com- pany-owned store.
AEC was founded in 1996 by St. Catharines native Andrew Pilsworth. The com- pany’s big break came when it helped unload inventory when Chrysler entered bank- ruptcy in 2008, Muratori said.
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Muratori, 34, a business graduate of McGill University in Montreal and Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., joined AEC in 2010 after a short career in invest- ment banking. A chance meeting with Pilsworth “changed the course of my life,” Muratori said.
TOO BIG AN OPPORTUNITY?
Pilsworth and Muratori pitched Chrysler on using AEC as its European sales arm.
“We knew it was a big opportunity,” Muratori said. “Almost too big for two guys from St. Catharines.”
AEC does not disclose annu- al sales figures, but Muratori said the company has deliv- ered more than 100,000 vehi- cles since it began operations in Europe, and homologated more than 80,000 vehicles. The cost of converting a North American Stellantis vehicle ranges from5,000 to 7,000 Euros ($7,300 to $10,200). Ram pickups are usually converted to run on liq- uefied petroleum gas at an additional cost of about2,500 to 3,000 Euros ($3,700 to $4,400).
A typical top-of-the- line Ram TRX that sells in Canada for about $110,000 will retail in Europe for about 100,000 Euros ($146,000).
Buyers are attracted to owning rare North American vehicles.
“It’s a point of pride for many of them,” Muratori said. Small-business owners, in par- ticular, “love those vehicles.”
Muratori, has an apart- ment in Munich and travels frequently to Antwerp and Turin. Although he travels to Canada about every six weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic con- fined him to Europe for sever- al years.
“Home is a funny concept for me,” Muratori said. “Home is still Canada.”
AEC benefits from the posi- tive image Canadians have in Europe, he said. Buyers often note Canada’s military contri- butions during the two world wars as one of the reasons for doing business with the com- pany.
When AEC developed its corporate values in 2017, employees identified “kind- ness” as key.
“Kindness. That’s what it means to be Canadian,” Muratori said. “It doesn’t mean to be nice. It means to be respectful of others.
“It’s not corporate mum- bo-jumbo. We live it every day.”