Last Friday's annual Manitoba Motor Dealers Association convention was a little different from previous years.
First, there was the new location at the Radisson Hotel Convention Centre downtown. Then there was the abbreviated time frame -- just one day instead of the usual two. And two new annual awards were introduced, the "Service to Industry" award and the "Associate of the Year" Award.
More than 175 MMDA members and associate members attended the convention, which day began with an entertaining presentation by David Chilton, author of the bestselling Wealthy Barber books and panelist on CBC TV's Dragon's Den.
While expressing concern about growing consumer debt, Chilton noted that many Canadians don't realize how well off we are to be living in Canada compared to the rest of the world.
"People complain that cars aren't made like they used to be," he said. "In fact, today's cars are much better, what with greater fuel efficiency, navigation systems, CDs and TVs, heated seats and steering wheels and sunroofs, for example. Cars today are unbelievable.
"These are the good old days."
The focus of the day's seminars was on dealer issues.
"We had two presentations to do with employee recruitment and retention and training," said MMDA executive director Geoff Sine, "We're hopeful that the sessions provided dealers with new tools to be more successful in those areas."
There was also a panel discussion, including bankers, about consumer financing.
"It was interesting to hear bankers' perspectives," Sine said. "We don't want to be encouraging consumers to take on too heavy a debt load."
Another session suggested new ways to use traditional media for advertising. "Our industry is generally moving away from print media and using the internet more for direct marketing," Sine said. "But there are still potential customers we can reach by traditional media."
Over lunch, dealers also heard from Michael Hatch, the Canadian Auto Dealers Association's chief economist, who presented a positive overview of Manitoba's auto sector and future prospects.
AT the wind-up banquet, Larry Vickar, president of the Vickar Auto Group (Vicker Chevrolet, Vickar Nissan, Vickar Mitsubishi and Waverley Mitsubishi) was presented with the MMDA's inaugural Service to Industry award
"This award is presented to a deserving MMDA member," Sine told the room. "Recipients are nominated by the membership of the MMDA. Nominees must be MMDA members in good standing of the association or an official of a member company, having conducted themselves in such a manner as to have gained the esteem of their fellow members and brought credit to the automotive industry through their contributions.
"Recipients of this award most definitely exemplify the conduct that garners the respect and esteem of one's peers. Larry Vickar is such a deserving individual. Larry displays a personality that is overflowing with generosity, energy, vitality and a strong desire to participate in and contribute to his industry. This has been very evident by his actions.
"Larry is well-known and well-respected by many within the industry. He has a reputation of commitment and living up to those same commitments. He is also known for his honesty and candour and he is truly an advocate for our industry. He has been involved in a number of areas within our association and has served on a number of committees including board and executive committees.
"Clearly, throughout the years of his involvement in the MMDA, he has given back to the industry by means of time, commitment and effort.
"Larry has demonstrated his belief in the association concept, its associated benefits, volunteerism and participation. And all the while he has made some very positive contributions to our association's efforts and its development. He has been a dedicated and hard worker for not only his business and philanthropic activities, but also for the MMDA, its membership and our industry. He can only be described as staunch and loyal supporter of our industry and association."
The First Canadian Group of Companies received the new Associate of the Year Award. This award, Sine said, was established to recognize the outstanding contributions that associate members make to the success and prosperity of the MMDA.
A nominee must be an associate member company in good standing of the association, having conducted themselves in such a manner as to have gained the esteem of their fellow members and have made a positive contribution to the programs or have contributed to the development of the association.
The First Canadian Group of Companies, Sine noted, has a long-standing relationship with the MMDA, and their staff has a long tradition of being involved on the association fundraising committees.
"They truly have made our success as an association their priority," he said.
The dealers also honoured outgoing president Neil Metcalfe (Metcalfe's Garage, the Ford dealer in Treherne, Mb) and inducted Marietta Rewucki, resident of Eastern Chrysler as the new MMDA president.