Business is booming at the almost year-old Birchwood Hyundai dealership on McPhillips -- so much so that management has added three more sales staff, for a total of seven.
The new sales reps, Adrian Elhassan, Aleks Baptista and Ervin Urizar, are all newly arrived in Canada and all started on the sales floor at the beginning of August.
Urizar is originally from Guatemala and has been in Winnipeg for just over a year. He says that he has a background in sales and has always loved cars.
"This is a great opportunity for me here," he says. "The Hyundai product line is well-priced and eco-friendly. I am enjoying working here."
Baptista is originally from Poland with stops in Ireland and Spain before arriving in Winnipeg about three years ago. She notes that she and her husband, Miguel (who works for Eastwood Truck and Toy Centre), operated a used-car and auto service centre in Spain.
"We had a friend here who encouraged us to come to Winnipeg," Baptista says.
She says that she is satisfied with her new career in auto sales. Management and fellow sales reps have been very helpful, she notes. "I appreciate the help and encouragement I have received."
Elhassan, a certified general accountant by training, had spent most of his career in finance and Law before coming to Canada. He had been living in Bermuda for the past 16 years before recently moving here with his Winnipeg-born wife and two school-age children
"Selling cars is quite different from what I was doing before," he says. "So far though, it is going well for me. I like the fact that the rewards are based on the effort you put in. I see my role as assisting customers in finding the vehicles they are looking for."
There have also been some changes in management in recent weeks. David Cummins has been the dealership's general sales manager since mid-May. Cummins had previously been sales manager at Birchwood's BMW store.
Cummins has been in auto sales for 20 years. Before joining the Birchwood Auto Group, he operated his own independent car store, specializing in luxury vehicles.
"It's great working for the Birchwood Auto Group," he says. "There is a lot of opportunity for growth within the company."
Shannon Vezey was hired as sales manager in early July. Vezey brings with her 17 years of experience in Asian import auto sales. She has worked for dealerships in different parts of Winnipeg. For the past seven years, she was working in management in north Winnipeg. Last fall, she took a break from the industry to try something different.
"I missed the business," she says, "and this opportunity opened up."
She says that she appreciates the energy and enthusiasm at Birchwood Hyundai and the Birchwood Group in general.
Over at Birchwood Infiniti Nissan, at the Pointe West AutoPark, Christian Goleski has been promoted from sales manager to retail facility manager. Goleski has been in auto sales with the Birchwood Auto Group for the past nine years, the last two at the Infiniti Nissan store. He says that he is excited about his new role and is looking forward to the challenge.
New MMDA website
Readers may want to check out the new Manitoba Motor Dealers Association website which went up about a week ago. The address is mmda.mb.ca. MMDA executive director Jeff Sine notes that the new website is more user-friendly for readers and MMDA members.
General Motors aims to make hockey safer for kids
General Motors has begun promoting its Safe and Fun Hockey Initiatives for 2012-13. The manufacturer launched the program last year with its Hockey Helmet program. All five-year-olds registered in a Canadian Minor Hockey Association program are eligible to receive free Bauer 2100 youth hockey helmets by clicking onto GM's Safe and Fun Hockey Program Facebook page and following the links.
New this year is the ThinkFirst Concussion Education Program (developed by Dr. Charles Tator). GM is making the program available through the Facebook page for $5. The course normally costs $9.
Birchwood raises funds in memory of dedicated employee
This Sunday afternoon from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Birchwood Kia on Regent at 1364 Regent Ave. West will be offering $5 haircuts by professional stylists. The money raised will be donated to CancerCareManitoba in memory of Martin Olafson, the dealership's long-time maintenance man, who passed away recently from cancer.
"Everyone loved Martin," said the dealership's general manager, Shayne Rankin. "He was a genuine person and went about his day without expecting much in return. He loved working here and loved the people. He will truly be missed by everyone here."
"We called Martin our Director of Communications because he was always on top of whatever was happening in the dealership," added sales rep Ted Debrowski.
"He was our go-to guy for anything we needed."
Olafson, who was just 49 when he passed away, was diagnosed last December "kept coming into work as long as he could," Olafson said.
Sunday's fundraiser, part of Kia Canada's Drive Change program, will feature family-friendly activities such as a bouncy castle, hot dogs and refreshments, a car wash and live music. "You can even dunk a sales person in the dunk tank," added sales manager Ross Roteliuk.
The dealership will match every dollar raised at the event. Olafson's family is expected to come celebrate the day and help raise funds for cancer research with the staff.