“It’s a result of the work we started in 2018,” said Houde. “We published a study on what it would bring to Quebec, and we took it to the governments of Quebec and Canada, and now we have the announcement.
“We want to make [EVs] for the world, and we have the natural resources here.”
Houde, 41, earned a master’s degree in political science at McGill University in Montreal. She worked in communications for UNICEF Canada and with the founder of Montreal’s Téo electric taxi service, which gave her an interest in EVs. Propulsion Quebec was formed in 2017 and Houde became CEO that year. She works with two vice-presidents and 25 others in the organization.
“I don’t make public policy, but I have an influential position, and I try to put people in the right direction and stay in touch with the stakeholders,” Houde said.
“Nobody was talking about batteries in Canada and now we will have the cathode plants. We’re proud of what we did.”
LOOKING TO OTHER INDUSTRIES FOR CUSTOMER-CARE INSPIRATION
Automotive retail is changing rapidly, driven by the COVID-19 pandemic and a culture of online shopping, and Volkswagen Group Canada’s head of digital transformation is leading the charge for the automaker.
Working from company headquarters in Ajax, Ont., 50 kilometres east of downtown Toronto, Vishnu Rajasingam leads VW’s digital projects, including its websites, consumer e-commerce, apps and internal data systems.
“It’s a long-term strategy to try to transform the organization,” Rajasingam said. “Our customers are being spoiled by other brands, and how do we keep up? What would Netflix do? What would Peloton do? It’s comparing and contrasting ourselves with other industries, not just automotive.
“I think our dealers appreciate that the consumer wants to engage with them differently today and we have to keep up.”
VW’s digital sales platform is called VolksKlick. Rajasingam doesn’t work on it, but rather coordinates the automaker’s departments and technology partners to customize it to the needs of consumers and dealers.
Rajasingam, 49, was born in Malaysia and studied automotive engineering and business in Michigan. Afterward, he returned to Malaysia to work for MercedesBenz and Volvo.
Toyota approached him in 2005 as it launched Lexus in Southeast Asia. The brand was unknown there, and Rajasingam set up the organization and ran the first corporate store.
He thought Canada offered more opportunities for his family, so they moved in 2007.
Rajasingam worked in customer experience for Mercedes-Benz and Genesis and in telematics at Hyundai before joining VW late last year in his current position.
“We need to break through the traditional ways of working,” Rajasingam said. “We were forced to pivot and evolve dramatically in the last two years, and that expanded our [digital] growth by 10 times more. Especially as we get into electric vehicles, we have to change not just the product but how we work with our dealers on a seamless customer experience.”