Metcalfe's Garage Ltd., Manitoba's oldest Ford dealer (and quite likely, the province's only fifth-generation family-owned dealership) unveiled its new look on April 11 with a party for about 450 customers and friends.
The day-long celebration included opportunities for test driving the latest Ford products with state-of-the-art technologies, door prizes (and a grand prize of three-year, 60,000-km maintenance package on a new vehicle), supper provided by Denny's Whole Hog Barbecue and a ribbon cutting to officially open Metcalfe's new Ford Millenium Facility.
Also on display were a 1915 Model T, a Monarch Richelieu and Ford Victoria from the mid-1950s and a Ford Galaxie 500 XL from the early 1960s.
"We redid our dealership in line with the Ford Millenium Facility guidelines," said dealer principal Neil Metcalfe, who is also the current president of the Manitoba Motor Dealers Association. "We enlarged our showroom and installed new furniture, new flooring and a new customer lounge."
The $300,000 project took about a year to complete, he added.
Thomas Metcalfe, Neil Metcalfe's great-great-grandfather, opened Metcalfe Garage in Treherne in 1900. "He sold his first Motel T Ford in 1912," Neil said.
The family moved to its current location on Highway 2 in 1978. Neil Metcalfe joined his father Jack and uncle Bruce in the business in 1997. He had been managing the dealership since his dad and uncle passed away in the mid-2000s. He purchased the business outright in January 2010.
Metcalfe said the dealership sold 250 new and used vehicles last year. "Business has been growing steadily in all areas of our dealership. Our sales volumes have tripled over the last five years."
Metcalfe said he's proud that his staff of 14 recorded the highest customer-satisfaction ratings of any Ford dealer in Western Canada and finished third for all of Canada. The dealership also earned its third Ford President's Award and second Ford Diamond Club honours ("The best of the best," Metcalfe said) for its sales and customer satisfaction achievements in 2011.
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I would like to express my sympathy to the Thompson family on the passing of Marcel Thompson on March 29 at the age of 74.
Marcel and Val opened Frontier Toyota almost 37 years ago with the goal of creating a dealership where, in the words of Rob Townsend, Thompson's longtime general manager, "customers would be truly appreciated and treated with respect."
"He installed in all of his employees a superior commitment to our customers and a great work ethic," Townsend said in his eulogy. "He truly believed that he employed the best people in the business. He was a great leader, motivator and mentor. He always said that if you really want something and are prepared to work hard for it, you can accomplish anything."
"Like most Winnipeg dealers, I was saddened by the news of Marcel Thompson's passing, especially following so closely after the sale of his dealership network to the Pattison Dealer Group (in January)," says Jim Cornwall of McPhillips Toyota.
"He was an accomplished, sincere, candid competitor, with a very clear view on how he wanted his dealership to run. He surrounded himself with extremely talented people who, in my opinion, were very loyal to his vision and expectations.
"Our dealership enjoyed a close working relationship with him because of his sincere and professional expectations, knowing that his word or commitment was golden and trustworthy beyond question."
Marcel Thompson was originally from Lorette. From the beginning of their time in the auto industry, Marcel and Val fostered a sense of family among employees and customers. Their sales philosophy earned numerous awards for the dealership.
Thompson was active over the years with Toyota Canada. He served for many years as a member of the Toyota Dealer Council, including a term as president. He also served as president of the Manitoba Motor Dealers Association, where his proudest achievement was persuading all auto dealers in Winnipeg to change their hours of operation, staying open only Monday and Tuesday evenings to allow sales staff more time for family and community involvement.
In 1999, Thompson added Frontier Subaru to his auto holdings. He also operated Frontier Autobody.
In recent years, Thompson had stepped back from the day-to-day operation of his enterprises. His daughter, Denise, is in charge of the Subaru store while Townsend, a longtime protégé, became Frontier Toyota's general manager. Nonetheless, Thompson retained an office at the Toyota store and came in quite often.
The family is asking that donations in Marcel Thompson's memory be directed to the Salvation Army Sarah's Place Project, 324 Logan Ave, 2nd Floor, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3A 0L5.