TORONTO — In what was a matter of keeping their friends close but the competition closer, Canadian auto dealers recently hosted their counterparts from China in what was a fact-finding mission for both groups.
A contingent of the China Automobile Dealers Association visited the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association and the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association during the week of Jan. 23. The Chinese group was en route to the National Automobile Dealers Association conference in Las Vegas as part of an ongoing relationship of exchanging information, ideas and business operations.
“At some point, the Chinese are going to send cars [they manufacture] to Canada, and if they are going to sell them in Ontario we want to sell them under our distribution model,” TADA Executive Director Todd Bourgon said. “It’s better to have a relationship with them because they influence those that have the ability to purchase and order over here in our existing franchise model. That’s why we’re part of it.”
The Chinese delegation wanted to come to Toronto and get a presentation from TADA about its market base, services it provides and dealer aid points.
And TADA gleaned some useful information from the Chinese.
“At their presentation, the government controls all the market data and gives everything from the types of vehicles that are being sold, numbers that are being sold, penetration of electric vehicles and all that kind of stuff,” Bourgon said. “It’s very useful for us because it allows me to compare my market place compared to theirs, where are they declining, where are they growing, what challenges their dealers are having, customer experience and are they having challenges retaining people in the market? The answer is yes. It’s the same challenges as in North America. They have best practices they share with us I’m able to use here and vice-versa.”
It was the second time the China Automobile Dealers Association visited Canada, having attended at the 2016 Vancouver International Auto Show.
Canadian representatives have been among a select few globally that have been invited to the China Automobile Dealers Association’s international forum every November since 2017.
Both Canadian Automobile Dealers Association President John White and Bourgon gave presentations to the Chinese group in Toronto. White said his presentation included information about its national Auto Career Start Program, which was launched in June, 2018 to educate the public about the various opportunities available in the automotive retail industry and to help connect job seekers with employers. Jason Dale, Executive Director of the Automotive Business School Canada in Barrie, which has many international students, was also present to provide information about his program from a training perspective.
“It was part of a bigger picture from our association’s perspective in terms of being involved on an international basis,” White said. “We believe it’s important to have good relations with our international partners and in the case of the Chinese we do believe that they will be eventually distributing product here. What will those products be and in which shape or form it will be distributed is still up in the air. We want to make sure whatever they do is done through the dealer franchise system.”
Bourgon said the Chinese began manufacturing their own vehicles 10 years ago and total market sales, including imports, was 20 million sold last year and they are hoping to sell 22 million this year.
“None of them right now conform to Transport Canada, but they have clearly told us than in order to grow their market like anybody else they have to expand globally,” Bourgon said.