The Unobvious Ones is a monthly look at movers and shakers who fly below the radar in the Canadian auto industry.
HE DIDN’T FIND THE AUTO INDUSTRY, IT FOUND HIM
For a new company, expansion must be robust yet sustainable. At electric-vehicle manufacturer ElectraMeccanica’s office in Vancouver, Human Resources Director Andrew Blair is preparing the company as it grows in Canada, the United States and China, where production began earlier this year.
“I set the human strategy for the organization, so the departments work together seamlessly. When our new CEO joined in 2019, he set out an aggressive expansion plan, so I have to map out our benefit plans and get data for salaries and bonuses.
Blair said he has to recruit people “who are passionate and believe in the vehicle. I also ensure legal compliance in our employment agreements because the laws are always changing in all three countries.”
Blair, 29, studied human resources at British Columbia’s Kwantlen University, and then did paid internships and contract work. He was offered a fulltime position at a water infrastructure company, “where I had to look after 650 employees. It was fun, but challenging.”
ElectraMeccanica reached out to him, and he joined in April 2019.
“I always had a bit of passion for automotive, but growing up in Vancouver, there isn’t an auto industry here, so I never thought about it as a career. I was happy in my last company, but this was an opportunity. [ElectraMeccanica is] completely rewriting the playbook, and it’s exciting to be here.”
He communicates remotely with personnel working at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic but goes to the Vancouver office to interact with essential employees. He always worked with the China location through email, and similarly now with the U.S. office due to travel restrictions.
“To be good at this, you have to understand the business, the mission and the strategy. I treat people with respect and I’m clear with them, and they’re willing to help me, too.”
DEALERS ARE HIS AUDIENCE AND HIS CLIENTS
Automakers and their franchised retailers have to work together. It’s a symbiotic relationship that requires an effective liaison. As manager of dealer and network development for Volvo Cars Canada in Richmond Hill, Ont., Julian Pastore makes sure both sides are successful.
“I work with our 36 retailers across Canada, with head office, and I’m a primary support for our regional operations staff,” said Pastore. “My job focuses on overall network health, facility compliance and market representation, and each requires their own skill set.”
The 30-year-old developed his auto passion early.
“My dad was a car salesman, and still sells cars to this day. The most exciting thing for me growing up was seeing what car he would bring home.”
His house was near an Audi dealership.
“I was there every day, bugging them with my resume in hand. They hired me, and I worked as a detailer while I was in high school.”
Through his job, he learned about the Automotive Business School, headquartered in Barrie, Ont., where he earned a diploma in automotive marketing and then a full degree in automotive business management.
“Right out of school, an opportunity came up with Mitsubishi Motor Sales in an entry-level dealer-development role. I was there about five years and worked my way up to a specialist position in the department.”
He joined Volvo in 2017 in his current position.
“My typical day is fielding questions from retailers and working with our executive team, our field staff and legal team preparing contracts, monitoring trends and continually evaluating markets across the country as we make network decisions.
“We’ve officially launched our electrification program for dealers, and that’s taking up a lot of my time. We’ll have the XC40 Recharge [electric vehicle] at the end of this year, and they have to have everything in place. Everything is a learning experience, and I welcome it with open arms.”
TALKING PRODUCT IS ‘THE BEST JOB I’VE EVER HAD’
For self-described “car nut,” Romaric Lartilleux, getting paid to talk about vehicles is a dream come true.
“My job is to promote the brands and product lineup to Canadian media, and through them, to the public,” said Lartilleux, manager of public relations, External Affairs Department at Toyota Canada in Toronto.
“There are two others on the team, and we plan launch events for new models, make sure we have the right cars in the press fleet and take care of the media site where we have all our press releases.”
Lartilleux, 42, was born in Paris, “and my mom said when I was 2 or 3, I was looking at cars. I thought I would be a car designer, but realized you have to be talented for that.”
Instead, he earned a mechanical engineering degree, which required him to do internships. His first was installing door handles on Peugeot’s assembly line, and then he had a term with automotive supplier Valeo. His final placement was in the accessories department at Toyota France.
“I was hired in 2002, so I’ve only ever worked for Toyota [since]. I moved to the technical-training department, and then I was an area sales manager. I traveled 60,000 kilometres per year visiting dealerships.”
He wanted to move to another country and applied to Toyota Canada, arriving in January 2012.
“I was a product trainer, hired mostly for my ability to speak French and train Quebec salespeople.”
He also delivered technical presentations to journalists and liked it enough to become a public-relations consultant in 2015.
“My boss moved to marketing in 2018, and I took over the manager position.
“Being able to speak English and French is an asset for the job, and being a car person is, too. This is the best job I’ve ever had.”