The Unobvious Ones is a monthly look at movers and shakers who fly below the radar in the Canadian auto industry.
PLANNING AHEAD FOR ICE AND ELECTRICITY
As Volkswagen moves deeper into electrification, the automaker needs people who understand the unique aspects of the new vehicles. Brittany Cramer, one of four product planning managers at Volkswagen Canada in Ajax, Ont., is responsible for the upcoming electric ID7 sedan and ID Buzz van, as well as the internal-combustion Jetta.
“I help manage what models come to Canada, what features they offer and how they’re priced throughout their entire product life cycle,” the 31-year-old said. “I also support launching the product in the market, proofing the training and market materials and preparing dealer bulletins and resources to ensure they have the right information.”
Cramer acquired a love of cars from her father, who worked in the auto industry.
She earned a degree in communications and then studied at Georgian College’s Automotive Business School in Barrie, Ont., 110 kilometres north of Toronto. Her first job was an internship at Nissan Canada as a digital marketing specialist. After a brief time at an ad agency, she returned to Nissan in 2018 as chief marketing manager, launching vehicles to the public after product planners had finished with them.
She joined Volkswagen in her current role in 2021. “I wanted to experience something different and see the German side of things, and I started with the Jetta portfolio,” she said.
The two upcoming ID7 and ID Buzz vehicles are her first EVs. “Both were created for the global market, so I have to ensure that the team in Germany understands how we need to package the vehicle to be successful in Canada.” That includes the colder climate, and Cramer makes sure items such as heated seats are included.
Keeping future products secret is also a job requirement. “When they finally come to market, it’s such a sigh of relief to share what we’ve been working on for so many years. It’s fantastic to have people see what we’ve been developing.”
BUILDING AN EXPERIENCE FROM THE GROUND UP
Porsche Canada has long held customer-focused driving events at third-party venues, but now it’s building its own site east of Toronto in Pickering, Ont. Overseeing it is Jennifer Cooper, 47, manager of Porsche Experience Centre Toronto.
“It’s opening in the summer of 2024, and my main focus is overseeing our construction project,” she said. “I’m the main point of contact between our design team, project
managers, our general contractor doing the track and a construction manager doing the building.”
Once the facility opens to customers, she will be responsible for all functions such as catering, vehicle detailing and on-site staff.
Cooper was always fascinated by cars and took the automotive marketing program at Georgian College in Barrie. Her first job was at Nissan Canada, compiling information for service bulletins. Over nine years, she ultimately moved to product planning as the automaker introduced the GT-R sportscar in Canada.
Porsche Cars Canada was established as its own entity in 2008, and based on her experience with the GT-R launch, she was headhunted to join as the product planning specialist for the Canadian launch of the 997 (911) Gen II.
“Twelve of us were hired as part of the original team, and I’m the only one left,” she said. “In 2010, we reorganized the marketing team, and I started in a new role for retail marketing.”
Cooper handled marketing for the Canadian Porsche Centres program when she and a colleague from Porsche AG began it in 2010. Four years later, her colleague returned to Germany and she took over his management role.
“Once [Porsche Experience Centre opens], that’s when the fun begins, because [I’ll] be responsible for all the functions,” she said. “This is our facility; we manage everything, rather than renting a venue and showing up. This will be in our home in Canada.”