The new assignment came after three-and-a-half years in Changchun in China’s automotive heartland, about 1,000 kilometres northeast of Beijing.
Boutin first visited China when he was studying for his master of business administration in 2011. After joining Volkswagen Canada in 2012, he expressed interest in working overseas. And six years later, he, wife Myriam and their two children landed in China.
“It was a real culture shock,” Boutin said.
Myriam found a job teaching at the international school their children attended. Boutin learned important cultural lessons in China, including how to navigate conflict and how to sell ideas when working as a minority partner (40 per cent) with FAW, a state-owned automaker.
One important lesson: If you call out a partner publicly, he said, “You lose trust” with everyone.
When learning a new culture, it’s important not to judge obvious differences.
“Don’t see it through Canadian eyes. See it through their eyes.”
Boutin speaks French, English, a little Mandarin and will soon start studying German.
In his current role with Volkswagen, Boutin’s goal is to create an omnichannel process that provides an “end-to-end” seamless customer experience.
Duties include navigating the dealer network; securing dealer agreements; online touch points such as website, apps and vehicle connectivity; e-mobility; market rollout responsibilities for products; data monetization; user experience; Skoda’s DigiLab;and the launch of VW’s agency model, by which customers order directly from the manufacturer.
Boutin oversees about 100 employees and about 200 external consultants.
While his family misses their friends and relatives, Boutin said, he is proud to represent Canada to the world.
“I have heard a lot of people who say, ‘Canadians are well-received.’ As a Canadian, I try to sell the country as much as I can.
“The world needs more Canadians.”