Mark Kelly is a long way from his hometown of Houston, Texas, and he couldn't be happier.
Mercedes-Benz Winnipeg's new general sales manager says he loves living in Winnipeg.
"I love the people and the relatively low cost of living," he said. "The summers are beautiful. It took me a while, though, to get used to the winters."
Surprisingly, about the only thing he says he misses about Houston is the humidity. And it's not as if Kelly is a Johnny-come-lately to our fair city. He's made his home here since 2004.
Kelly began his career in auto sales in Houston selling Honda and Acura products. He later moved to New York, where he sold Jaguars. "I came west with a friend, met someone here, got married and stayed," he said.
Kelly had been working for a number of years for a used-car dealer here. Then he met Mercedes-Benz Winnipeg president Brian Lowes through a mutual friend and they hit it off.
"Brian wanted somebody here to run the dealership on a day-to-day basis while he focuses on growing the business," Kelly said. "I don't know of a better person to work for than Brian."
"In New York, selling cars was about the brand name. In Winnipeg, it's about the art of the deal. People here aren't big on pretense. There's a lot of money here, but you would never know it. In Winnipeg, you have to sell value and know your product."
Kelly is not the only new member of the Mercedes-Benz Winnipeg sales team. Within the past five months, Lowes has added three new sales reps and re-hired a fourth.
New to the dealership are Abdulla Almehrib, Evan Jakilazek and Chad Pollett. Pollett joined the sales team at the beginning of March. He'd been working as a studio engineer in music production, had some previous sales experience at Future Shop and wanted to try something different.
Jakilazek moved to Mercedes-Benz Winnipeg in May from an Asian import dealership.
"Brian (Lowes) sought me out," he said. "This is a top-notch store with a lot of great people, and the Mercedes Benz products are a joy to be around."
Almehrib is literally the new kid on the block. The 25-year-old, who has a marketing degree, hit the sales floor at the beginning of July after working in auto repair with CA Manitoba.
Long-time Mercedes Benz Winnipeg customers may remember Jay Bowerman from his first go-round with the store. He rejoined the sales team on April 1 after taking a leave of several years to take care of a sick family member.
"It's really nice to be back," Bowerman said. "It's a different atmosphere now and we have a younger team. I'm really enjoying it."
In addition to welcoming new sales staff, Mercedes Benz Winnipeg has also just introduced a new model, the 2014 E-Class.
"The new E-Class is a complete redesign," Kelly said. "The technology has always been there, but the styling represents the next evolution. It doesn't look like any other car on the road."
Consumers have a choice of engines for the new E-Class. The base engine is a 3.5L direct-injection DOHC V6. The E300 model puts out 248 horsepower and 251 lb.-ft. of torque, while the E350 model delivers 302 hp and 273 lb.-ft. of torque. Those drivers who want more power can choose the E550 model with its 4.6 L Bi-Turbo V8 engine, which produces 402 hp and 443 lb.-ft. of torque. Also available is a fuel-efficient diesel model.
The 2014 E-Class boasts optional LED intelligent headlights, active curve illumination and adaptive-high-beam assist. Inside, there's genuine stitched ARTICO leather seats and dashboard, three kinds of ambient lighting and many other amenities.
There are several option packages and a good supply of models to choose from. Kelly reports the price for a new 2014 E-Class starts at $70,000 and tops out at about $100,000.
Mercedes-Benz Winnipeg selling bikes
For more environmentally-concerned individuals, Mercedes-Benz Winnipeg is now also offering electric bicycles. The store began carrying E-bikes at the beginning of the year, reports sales rep Justin Livingstone.
Cyclists can do up to 25 km an hour on the bikes. "The bikes are comfortable to ride and are iPhone-compatible," Livingstone said. "We've had a good response to the bikes from some of our Smart car customers. We 've sold a few already, and it just takes a few days to fill orders for them."
The bikes cost $3,240.