The Unobvious Ones is a monthly look at movers and shakers who fly below the radar in the Canadian auto industry.
CANADIAN LEADERSHIP IN THE DEEP SOUTH
It’s a long way from his hometown of Grimsby, Ont., to Tallapoosa, Ga., but that’s where Gerald Bruch became vice-president and plant manager of the Honda Precision Parts transmission factory.
He was there from the start, heading a division that prepared the plant for its 2006 opening. He also led teams to build the world’s first 10-speed transmission for front-wheel drive.
“I was an accountant leading engineers and I focused on how I could support them, which in turn made the project successful.”
Always a “numbers guy,” the 53-year-old earned a commerce degree at the University of Toronto, and then a CPA/ CMA designation. He took a one-year contract position for new graduates at IBM, “and then I started the real job search, and Honda Canada was looking for a financial analyst.”
In 1991, he began at the automaker’s Alliston, Ont., factory as a cost accountant.
“I did all sorts of roles, with cost management, new models, inventory control, and I even dabbled in systems development and implementation.”
He spoke with a senior accountant at Honda in Ohio, and wanting a challenge, asked about a job swap. He spent six months at the Ohio plant, and then in 2005, moved with his family to Georgia.
“We had five divisions and I was the accounting division manager, and we were tasked with setting up for this new facility. In 2011, my responsibilities were expanded to include plant operations. In 2013, the vice-president asked if I’d take on the 10-speed transmission engineering lead and I did that for three years. Then about a year later, I was offered the vice-president position.”
GLOBAL CAMPAIGNS ADAPTED TO CANADIAN MARKET
What does all of Jaguar’s Canadian advertising — whether traditional or online — have in common? The person behind it.
As marketing communications manager for Jaguar in Toronto, Mary Borg is responsible for all consumer messaging.
“We have an advertising agency, and I work with them on a daily basis to build the right messaging, adapt the global campaigns that we localize for Canada and say how much we can spend. We also have an agency that does the media buying for us and I give direction on the channels we want to focus on and build the strategy.”
Borg earned a marketing diploma “because I just loved that you can communicate to people on their needs and wants and drive a message that would appeal to them.”
Straight out of Toronto's Humber College, she joined toy company Googleplex in sales and marketing.
“I was just in my early 20s and I was flying around the world to international toy shows. I even secured the Jurassic Park licence from Universal [Studios], so we could build dinosaur toys.”
In 1998, in a move she called “from small toys to bigger toys,” she joined Nissan as an advertising specialist. She left eight years later to work at her brother’s Bell Mobility stores but missed automotive and went to Hyundai in dealer advertising. She returned to Nissan for which she initiated sponsorship programs with the NFL and CFL, and then did a three-year stint at Volvo.
After a short break, a friend at Jaguar called and asked her to join in her current position, which she did in 2019.
“The challenge is that there are so many options. People go online and narrow their shopping to the top five and you have to break through, be memorable and home in on what makes your brand distinct.”
PLUGGING AWAY SO DRIVERS CAN PLUG IN
In Newfoundland and Labrador, an initiative called takeCHARGE is recruiting dealers to spread the word about electric vehicles.
Stephanie Daley is the manager of energy conservation at Newfoundland Power in St. John’s, which partners with Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro on the takeCHARGE joint venture.
“Last year we launched a comprehensive website for people considering electric vehicles, everything from models and fuel savings, to the steps and processes for buying them. We reached out to dealers who carry them, to identify themselves on our website.” Almost half of the province’s 60 new vehicle dealers are listed on the site.
Daley, 38, was fascinated with marketing from a young age.
“I’ve been an advertising geek all my life. It’s a lifelong trend.” She earned a business degree from Memorial University in St. John’s, but her first job was in Ontario in brand management at Molson Coors Canada.
She then returned to Newfoundland to work in tourism with a local ad agency.
“I wanted a new challenge and there was a posting for Newfoundland Power, and I joined eight years ago. I started as a marketing specialist, became supervisor of marketing, and then just over two years ago became manager of the department.”
Daley works with a team of 15 specialists who oversee all aspects of energy conservation and draft five-year plans for the utility to approve. The increasing focus on EVs means Daley works on such projects as meeting with stakeholders on fast-charging, and with homebuilder associations on incorporating panels for home vehicle chargers.
“We’re looking at utilities investing in charging infrastructure, and providing financing to help private businesses to bring it in,” she said, adding that one of the initiatives, if approved, will add provincial top-ups to existing federal rebates for zero-emission vehicles.
“Electric vehicles have a good business case for the customer, and we hope to help with them.”