The Unobvious Ones is a monthly look at movers and shakers who fly below the radar in the Canadian auto industry.
BEING A GOOD LISTENER IS KEY TO CONSUMER INSIGHT
As the senior vice-president of Kantar TNS Canada, a market-research company in Toronto, Paul Pacheco helps carmakers get into customers’ heads.
“We’re largely based on survey information,” said the 54-year-old. “We talk to people and conduct surveys. We try to figure out for clients what it means for them and the challenges they’re facing. We deal with six or seven automakers, all the big players.” Pacheco took an arts pro-gram at Toronto’s York University, but when he spotted a job listing with flexible hours, he applied to help pay for his studies.
“It was in market research, and it appealed to me from that angle. I ended up getting a job as an interviewer.”
That was in 1992, and it turned into a career as that company went through various mergers to eventually become Kantar TNS. Pacheco began as a door-to-door interviewer, but in 1995 got into client service and was subsequently promoted over the years.
His initial client focus was primarily in health care and packaged goods, but he has been involved in automotive for the last decade.
Pacheco’s team conducts studies and then sells the reports to companies, along with custom programs tailored specifically to the client.
“It ends up being a key tool for companies trying to make decisions about their businesses. We take the data we’ve collected, based on consumer input. The clients might think their challenge is ‘A,’ but customers are saying it’s ‘B,’ and so we suggest the solutions to approach it.
“Part of my success is listening. If you don’t, you won’t know what to pick up on. You have to know the right questions to ask on the issues.”
MEETING THE CHALLENGES OF LONG-DISTANCE CUSTOMERS
When a dealership has many rural customers, there are unique challenges.
Doug Brown, parts manager at Angevaare Mazda in Peterborough, Ont., about 140 kilometres northeast of Toronto, draws on his experience to handle them.
“There’s a huge difference from the big city,” said Brown, 64. “Our customers are driving on different roads and a lot of them are commuting and putting more miles on their cars. It means they’re going [to wear] through parts quicker, and that becomes a priority.”
Brown’s father restored antique cars and instilled his son’s love of cars; Brown now owns a 1955 Ford Victoria and 1983 Mercedes-Benz 380SL. When he finished high school in Toronto, he worked at dealerships doing odd jobs.
“I got tired of that and applied at Mazda Canada, and I ended up as their lot manager for their new vehicles coming off the trains. I did that for a couple of years and then they subbed that to a contractor. They asked if I wanted a job in the parts department, so I went into their warehousing and worked my way up to assistant warehouse manager. I was with Mazda Canada for 29 years.”
Warehousing was eventually contracted out to Caterpillar Canada. Brown then switched to Caterpillar, until his job moved and the commute was too far. He took early retirement and joined Angevaare Mazda as a parts adviser. When the manager left 11 years ago, Brown got the job.
“We’re not a large dealership, so space can be a challenge. You’ve got to see what vehicles are being phased out so you can clear the shelves, and check new vehicles to see what changes, what wear parts to stock and if there’s a change in tire sizes,” he said. “I’ve got tons of experience in handling the product right from when I started my career.”
COMPLAINING ABOUT TEACHING TURNED HIM INTO A TEACHER
He never considered teaching when he first wrenched on cars, but Chris Muir is now turning out new waves of technicians as a professor at the School of Transportation at Toronto’s Centennial College.
Muir, 38, teaches a two-year diploma program for students who have no automotive experience and few ways to get it.
“The majority are fresh from high school, with a few mature students. This diploma gives them a leg up over other avenues. When they’re out, they’re considered third-yea apprentices.
“They have to come back for their apprentice training but their employers don’t have to lose them for the same period of time. They lose them one day a week for a year, rather than for three years.”
Muir gained his love of vehicles through his mother, who drove muscle cars, and as a teenager he worked summers at a two-bay garage. Out of high school he took an in-depth General Motors apprenticeship, and subsequently worked at GM and Nissan dealerships. He also spent time at GM’s head office as head of body and electrical diagnosis, assisting technicians with difficult vehicle issues.
He went to Centennial for truck and coach training, but didn’t like the course and co plained to the school, which asked him for a resume.
“In fall 2014, they called me in for an interview. I got verified and I was teaching by January. Everything I do revolves around cars, and I’ve got empathy for the students and passion for the material.
“To lure techs, we have to improve the work environment, and treat technicians as a true profession and pay them,” said Muir.
“Public schools have to show this is an attractive industry with potential for growth and jobs. It’s going in high-tech direction and there are so many different avenue that all revolve around a car