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Powerful new Benz bends the speed limit

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The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG 4MATIC S-Model, which arrived at Mercedes-Benz Winnipeg's showroom two weeks ago, comes with lots of power. That power is supplied by an AMG 5.5-litre V-8 bi-turbo engine generating a maximum output of 585 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque. It enables the coupe to hit 100 kilometres an hour in 3.6 seconds.

"The S-Model is the fastest four-door sedan in the world," says Mercedes-Benz Winnipeg sales rep Justin Livingstone. "It boasts Mercedes-Benz's newly developed performance AWD system. The new design is beautiful and the technology is outstanding." Livingstone reports the new model, which starts at $133,000 (including freight and pdi) is a limited-edition model. "We received an initial delivery of just two vehicles, both of which were pre-sold," he says., "and we have just written an order for a third. We will be receiving a few more S-models in the next few weeks."

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Mark Warsaba is the new managing partner at St. James Volkswagen/Audi. The former Winnipegger took the reins of the 42-year-old dealership in early September, replacing longtime managing partner Russ Saladin, who sold the store to the AutoCanada group as of the beginning of March.

Warsaba was born and raised in Winnipeg and began his working life in the local trucking industry with TransX. He was transferred to the West Coast 18 years ago. Twelve years ago, Volkswagen Canada came calling. The manufacturer had decided to expand its parts-distribution network.

The company hired Warsaba to oversee the construction of a new parts-distribution centre in Richmond, B.C. "I was also asked to put together the staff, put operational processes in place and manage the centre," he says. "I managed it for five years." Seven years ago, Volkswagen Canada moved Warsaba to the sales side, appointing him area manager for British Columbia. "I was responsible for 18 dealerships in B.C.," he says. "My team and I helped with marketing, advertising, financial support and business development. We also were responsible for appointing new dealers."

Warsaba says under his leadership, Volkswagen sales, profitability and customer satisfaction in B.C. rose to the top ranks among Canadian regions. Among the dealers under his jurisdiction in B.C. were three stores that are part of the AutoCanada stable.

"One of the dealers told me that AutoCanada had recently purchased a store in Winnipeg," Warsaba says. "He suggested that I speak to (AutoCanada president) Pat Priestner (also a former Winnipegger). I contacted Pat and he made it possible for me to move back to Winnipeg." Warsaba says most of his family still lives here.

St. James Volkswagen/Audi was founded by the late Charlie Saladin 42 years ago and has been run by Charlie's son, Russ, and his partners, Rick Heatherington and Melanie Doell for the past several years. Charlie Saladin retired in 1997 and his former partner, John Herzberg, retired in 2001.

"We appreciate what Russ and his team have built at St. James Volkswagen/Audi and we intend to build on that," Warsaba says. "We don't expect to change much, just do a little tweaking here and there. We are also introducing some new processes and will be increasing our marketing efforts. Our goal, with AutoCanada's support, is to grow our share of the market for both Volkswagen and Audi products."

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Gauthier Chrysler Dodge Jeep has a new general sales manager, Michael Shrimpton. Shrimpton was previously the Regent Avenue store's used-car manager. The new general sales manager got his start in auto sales in 2000 with the former Orion Chev. He left there in 2008 to try his hand in another area of sales.

"I wanted to try something different," Shrimpton says. "I went to work for Versatile tractor in sales. It was a different kind of experience. I was selling to dealers rather than the public. I also got to travel a lot. It was a lot of fun." However, with a young a family to consider, Shrimpton was receptive when Gauthier Chrysler vice-president Kevin Schumacher came calling in 2010.

Replacing Shrimpton as the dealership's used-car manager is Robert Grancich. Grancich has been selling Chrysler products in Winnipeg and Calgary since 1999. He came to Gauthier Chrysler four months ago, lured by the opportunity to become a manager. "This is a busier store than where I was before," he says. "There is positive energy here and lots of good inventory to work with."

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For longtime customers of Oliver Williams who haven't been in touch with him for a while, he has a new address on Regent. After more than 30 years selling General Motors products, he is now one of the sales managers at Birchwood Honda on Regent, just down the street from the former Park Pontiac store where he has spent most of his career in auto sales.

He left Park Pontiac in 2009 after General Motors announced the dealership was one of seven stores losing their GM franchises as a result of the manufacturer's restructuring plan. Although Williams continued to sell GM products for other GM dealers for a time, the opportunity to become a manager again persuaded him to switch to Honda.

"I was in management at Park Pontiac for the last several years we were in business there," he says. "I wanted to get back into management. I love it here. Working with all of these much younger people has been rejuvenating. It has been fun."

Gil DeGuzman had been selling Hondas for the Birchwood Group's two Honda stores for the past 10 years. Recently, he moved to the auto group's Woodhaven Toyota store. "I just wanted to try something different," he says of the change. "There's a lot going on here."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 27, 2013 E6

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