The Unobvious Ones is a monthly look at movers and shakers who fly below the radar in the Canadian auto industry.
REDEFINING DEI MEANS YOU CAN BE YOURSELF
Although she works alone in her office, Tara Willis ultimately has a hand in every department of Nissan Canada through her role as senior manager of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
“We intentionally intended the DEI space as an independent department, reporting directly to the president,” Willis said. “I act as an unbiased neutral voice and create a safe space for everyone.”
“I’m working on redefined DEI,” she said. “It’s not just about gender and ethnicity. It could be a single parent or a disability that we can or can’t see. It’s irrespective of how someone is defining themselves, but that they can be themselves and be comfortable.”
From the company’s head office in Mississauga, Ont., she is also senior manager of philanthropy for the Nissan Canada Foundation, working with its partners on charitable donations.
Willis earned a business administration degree and always had an eye for the auto industry. “I love cars. I was the kid with the car posters. It was just this passion, that I wanted to drive these sports cars.”
While in university she did a co-op program with BMW and was hired after she graduated. Her roles included financial services and product planning. In 2011 she went to Subaru as an advertising manager. In 2016,
“I was looking for change and growth,” she said, and began at Nissan Canada.
She worked in marketing and then headed Infiniti’s marketing. Willis took the newly created DEI role in 2022. Along with training and courses, she drew on her previous team-leader experiences to build her qualifications for the position.
“The mindset was to build Nissan for everyone,” she said, adding that it’s about accountability and action. “DEI is a longterm journey. I love the industry and want to leave it in a better place than when I started.”
HE STUDIED TO BE A PROFESSOR BUT HEEDED A DIFFERENT CALLING
Kia Canada launched a new brand identity for its 198 franchised dealerships in 2021 and Mark Scigliano has led that effort as the company’s national manager of dealer development, based in Mississauga, Ont.
On the dealership network side, he manages franchise agreements, acquisitions, “and the signature image program, and that’s big because we’re transferring everyone to the new image,” he said. In addition, he manages business development, including dealer financial analysis and profitability support.
“[Kia] opened in Canada in 1999, and because of the upward trajectory of the brand, our franchise values are at an all-time high,” he said. There is a lot of interest from prospective dealers, he said, and he works with his team to evaluate them.
Scigliano, 38, considered becoming a professor and earned a degree in philosophy, but his family was in the auto industry and “I decided that’s where I wanted to be.”
In addition to working at GM Financial for a year in collections and commercial lending, he attended the Automotive Business School of Canada in Barrie, Ont., 110 kilometres north of Toronto.
Upon graduation, he was hired by Kia in 2008 as part of the marketing team.
“It was low-level work for campaign execution and it wasn’t long after that I transitioned into an advertising specialist role.”
After four years as a district sales manager, he moved into digital marketing.
“Kia Canada was recognized as the top global Kia subsidiary for digital sophistication in three consecutive years, and it was my baby,” he said.
Beginning in 2018, Scigliano headed all national marketing, and took his current role earlier this year.
He has been involved at most levels of the brand relaunch in Canada — complete with a new company logo — from marketing to the dealership makeovers.
“That relationship with your dealers is paramount to the success of any brand. I cultivate those relationships with a holistic understanding of our brand.”