When customers do business with Summerside Toyota on Prince Edward Island, they also get a chance to do business with the entire community.
The dealership’s welcome package to new-vehicle buyers includes invitations to sample lobster at discount rates from Arsenault’s Fish Mart, work out for a month free at Iron Haven Gym and save money making wine at White Oak Cellars. Eleven local businesses are in the welcome package.
After Craig Passmore took over as general manager of Summerside Toyota in June 2018, he realized the dealership’s connection to the local business community had been lost. In 2015, Nova Scotia-based The Pye Group took over the dealership from a well-liked local owner.
Customers reacted poorly to the change, said Passmore.
“In a small community, you can become disconnected very quickly,” he said. “Especially when no one knows anyone who works at the dealership.”
Passmore, who had worked for Nova Scotia-based O’Regan's Automotive Group, moved to P.E.I. with his family from Dartmouth, N.S., and set about rebuilding relationships in Summerside, a city of about 15,000.
“We live in a small community, so maintaining a connection with local businesses is important,” said Passmore. “It was lacking here at the dealership before my arrival in June .”
Passmore asked other business owners if they would participate in creating a welcome package that would add value to the auto purchase. His offer of free advertising was “warmly received.”
Passmore said he is not aware of similar referral programs in the area, and the feedback has been frequent and positive.
“It’s been a huge value-add [for] the customer, building the relationship with them and our local partners and helping to re-establish a sense of community with our staff and the public.”