The Unobvious Ones is a monthly look at movers and shakers who fly below the radar in the Canadian auto industry.
EXPANDING THE SALES NETWORK, ONE BRICK AND ONE STORE AT A TIME
Genesis Canada started primarily with at-home customer service — bringing cars to their doors — but as the brand grows, so does its infrastructure for new brick-and-mortar stores.
That responsibility falls to Ali Sobani, senior manager of network development at Genesis’ head office in Markham, Ont.
“It starts with long-range planning for facilities across the country, that we have accurate representation with the right partners in the right markets,” he said. “It’s a two- to five-year plan to build the foundation.”
Sobani also oversees the buy-sell transactions for the stores.
“It’s a little different from a franchise. The dealer principal owns the location and invests in building the facility, but we control the logistics and supply chain. The distributor doesn’t have to house inventory, because the sold units are dispatched to them.”
Sobani, 40, was always interested in finance, and he earned a degree in business administration. He worked for three major banks in Canada before going back to school to upgrade his education.
His program included developing a case study for a company, outlining the potential for a possible supplier acquisition for Volkswagen.
“Hyundai had a job posting in 2013, and I walked into the interview with a copy of the case study, and the director interviewing me liked it,” he said. “I was hired in product and corporate strategy.”
He gradually moved up, finally to Hyundai’s manager of dealer development. “Genesis was fairly new, and I had to dedicate time to it. That involved launching the Canadian [Genesis] image program from day one.” Sobani moved into his current role as senior manager of network development in 2021.
“I was already working on many of the pieces, but this is a national role, and now I cover the entire portfolio across the country,” he said. “These facilities involve monumental investment [from dealers], and the success factor is having these strong relationships to support the ongoing growth.”
A FASCINATION WITH ADVERTISING BECOMES A CAREER WITH NISSAN AND THEN INFINITI
Whether it’s a minute-long TV commercial or a quick hit online, advertising must be grabby. Making that happen at Infiniti Canada in Mississauga, Ont., is Michael Bowen, senior manager of marketing communications.
“I have three people on my team, and my role is support for the strategic direction,” he said. “It’s defining the business for the team and the [advertising] agency, and ultimately the go-to-market plan.
“Then there’s finding out if the campaign worked and how it affected Canadian consumers. Where there are gaps to fill, we try new things to create a stronger marketing campaign.”
Bowen, 38, was “fascinated with advertising as a kid,” and he subsequently earned a degree in marketing management.
Upon graduating, he was hired by an agency that had Toyota as a client. Bowen worked on that automaker’s experiential events, including setting up the venue and displays, attracting attendees and analyzing the event’s success.
“It was fascinating, and I wanted to be in the auto industry,” he said.
In 2011, Bowen joined Nissan’s digital team, managing social media and the company’s website. He moved through various roles to become Nissan’s brand manager in 2020. Two years later, he took on his current role at Infiniti.
The position covers all types of advertising, including digital and print, and auto shows and consumer events. Getting customers into a vehicle to get a feel for it is important, Bowen said, “and when COVID hit, we couldn’t interact the same way, so we looked at augmented reality and created a digital campaign that allowed someone to experience it through their mobile device, which we’re still running today.”
Advertising provides the sizzle, Bowen said, “but I’ve always been curious about the steak. To be successful in marketing relies as much on data management as it does on creativity and intuition.”