The Unobvious Ones is a monthly look at movers and shakers who fly below the radar in the Canadian auto industry.
DEALER TRAINING COULDN’T STOP FOR COVID-19
When pandemic restrictions shut down many in-person dealership functions, Mitsubishi Motor Sales of Canada pivoted to online learning.
“We launched the new Outlander and had to train over 300 technicians across Canada,” said Tony Campisi, manager of national dealer training for Mitsubishi.
“We were able to do that [via] Zoom even before the first models arrived at the dealerships.”
Campisi, 54, was working at a bank when he was intrigued by an ad for auto sales training. Within three months of his first placement at a Chevrolet store, he was salesman of the month. After two years as business manager at a Volkswagen dealership, he wanted to join an automaker.
“It was tough back in those days because they didn’t want someone with retail experience working in corporate,” Campisi said.
Starting in 1997, Campisi worked as a district sales manager for three automakers when they first opened in Canada: Daewoo, then Kia and finally Mississauga, Ont.based Mitsubishi in early 2003. “We were new and didn’t have enough dealers, so I was hired to do dealer development as well as district management,” he said.
After handling sales training, Campisi became a parts-and-service district manager “because I didn’t know much about it and thought it could help me be more well-rounded to learn the after-sales side.” He returned to sales training in 2014 and was promoted to national manager last year.
When Mitsubishi Canada launched the Outlander plugin hybrid for 2018, Campisi dreamed up a tablet-based program to show customers how it worked and compare it to other vehicles. The tablet is now used for all vehicle models.
“I can’t take all the credit, as we went with a supplier to develop it,” Campisi said. “But it’s now used in the U.S. and Puerto Rico and soon in Mexico, too.”
BUILDING THE PROCESS THAT BUILDS A VEHICLE
When there’s a new car model or one that is being redesigned, there’s a new or revised assembly process. At Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada (TMMC) in Cambridge, Ont., Katlyn Fanning ensures that everything comes together on time.
“We’re responsible for the overall project management,” said Fanning, 35, senior analyst of project planning and management.
“We have around 18 individual departments in our working group — made up of manufacturing, engineering and support — all interacting on a regular basis.”
Fanning leads project planning for the Lexus NX utility vehicle as it nears Canadian production.
No day is typical, she said. “We may be working on the timing for a vehicle trial, or meeting with suppliers to talk about parts, or with our Japanese counterparts on the design. It all has to be scheduled because we have to meet our targets and objectives.”
Fanning earned a master’s degree in virology from the University of Waterloo in Ontario. While there, she taught a course as part of her co-op but then worked for a software company that had research labs as clients.
“While I loved science and data, my experience made me want to stay in industry, not academia,” she said.
The software company was small and Fanning wanted to go big. She joined TMMC in 2015 in production control. “I was part of the operations team, making sure we get parts here every day so we can build cars I moved into the systems team and from there into start-of-production, which is my primary job right now.”
There’s an art to coordinating 80-plus people on a project, and Fanning thinks she has a natural advantage.
“I’m 4-foot-11 and not intimidating, and it allows me to build connections with our team and management. My analytical background helps with scheduling, and my science background means I’m thinking about the next milestone.”
PLUGGING AWAY AS DRIVERS PREPARE TO PLUG IN
General Motors realizes that for electric vehicles to succeed, people must understand how to operate them.
“We’re developing the strategy for dealers and communities, making sure the appropriate logistics are in place for our electric future,” said Omira Janmohamed, 39, who manages EV readiness at GM Canada in Oshawa, Ont.
“Day to day, we focus on education and training for dealers, consumers and even our employees. I collaborate with my U.S. counterparts and our Canadian teams. I liaise with finance, brand directors and the dealer organization.
“There are plans for future deadlines, and a lot of my role is ensuring the teams are thinking about those strategies today.”
Janmohamed was born in Vancouver, where her father was the sales marketer for his family’s manufacturing company.
“He was my hero, and growing up I was surrounded by that and wanted to get into business,” she said.
While earning a bachelor of commerce at the University of British Columbia, Janmohamed joined a co-op program that sent students to temporary jobs around Toronto.
“I joined GM in Oshawa as an intern for a couple of months. I finished my final year at university and GM hired me full time.”
Janmohamed started as a district manager in Saskatoon, Sask., for two years. “I called on the dealers and developed marketing plans, and they taught me about the auto industry.”
Then a position opened for a regional marketing manager in India, which she did for a year. She also spent a year as a regional sales manager in Calgary before returning to GM’s Oshawa headquarters in marketing. She took on the EV readiness role in June 2020.
“I have the cross-network experience in sales and marketing. Any strategy must include our customers, our dealers and GM, and so I look at the benefits to all three.”