Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Katz tells dealers customer is the boss

Whatever the question, answer is always 'yes'

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SAM Katz says he has something in common with auto industry sales representatives.

"We share the same bosses -- our customers," the Winnipeg Goldeyes president told graduates, industry leaders and sales reps at the Manitoba Motor Dealers Association (MMDA) Sales Certification Program Convocation and Professional Development program last Tuesday at the Norwood Hotel. "And nothing is too good for our customers."

In his presentation, Katz spoke of the Goldeye organization's commitment to customer service from the initial phone call to order tickets to parking to seating. "Our service reps know many of the fans in their section by name," Katz said. "No matter what the question, our answer is always 'yes.' "

That commitment to customer service has paid enormous dividends for Katz and the Goldeyes, the team owner noted. The Goldeyes have broken every attendance record in the Northern League. Last season, they welcomed more than 300,000 fans, the largest single season attendance in league history.

"We had the second highest attendance in North America independent baseball (out of 58 teams) and we drew more fans than 13 Triple-A teams," he noted. "Winnipeg is the jewel in the crown of the Northern League."

Katz outlined the struggle he had to go through to get the Goldeyes to where they are now. His long time goal was to bring affordable professional baseball back to Winnipeg after a 25-year absence.

First, he tried unsuccessfully to bring Winnipeg a Triple A Team. When the Goldeyes began play here ten years ago, they had to play in the football stadium. Katz's determination to build a ball park for his team ran into heavy opposition from city hall.

"As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, there are always people who will tell you you are wrong," he said. "City hall gave me a deal they were sure I would turn down because it was so bad. Nevertheless, I took the deal, raised the funds and built the ball park and fans just keep coming."

It helps that Katz and his manager, Hal Lanier, continue to put together winning teams on the field. The Goldeyes have made the playoffs every year since their inception.

Katz said that his greatest pleasure is having parents come up to him with their young children and thank him for giving fans a team they can afford to support as well as seeing all the children who have benefited from the team's Field of Dreams charitable foundation.

In his opening remarks, Don Neufeld of Auto City Mazda in Steinbach, the MMDA's new president, noted that with this most recent graduating class, more than 800 auto sales reps around the province now have been certified as sales professionals. He also reviewed the new provincial dealer licensing rules which require anyone selling more than five cars in a year to have a permit and a sign identifying their business locations. All dealers also have to pass a knowledge test and in any print ads, they have to include their dealer numbers.

* * *

Winnipeg's new Mitsubishi dealership will be opening next week. Vickar Mitsubishi will be operating in temporary quarters adjacent to Vickar Community Chev Olds on Regent until its new building is ready in November.

"We are very excited about being awarded the dealership," said Stephen Vickar, the dealer principal. "Mitsubishi is a great company with great products."

Vickar got his start in the industry working for his father, Larry Vickar, at Vickar Community Chev Olds. For the past few years though, he has been operating his own company, Lakeside Automotive Group, exporting cars into the United States.

Mitsubishi Motors of Canada is in negotiations to open a second dealership in south Winnipeg.

* * *

Two weeks ago, Cam Clark Carman celebrated the official opening of the company's newly acquired dealership in Carman with a tent and barbecue, an Irish band and a display of classic Fords including a '49 pick-up and 1960s model Thunderbirds and Galaxies.

"We had more than 600 people drop in," said Cam Clark Ford (Winnipeg) general manager Steve Dennis. "It was a beautiful day."

The Cam Clark Auto Group took over the former Delaquis Ford on May 1. "The first couple of weeks were slow," Dennis said. "It was seeding time. Since the end of May though, we have been very busy. We have more than doubled our inventory and have done a lot of advertising. People seem to like the greater selection."

At the same time that the Cam Clark Group was celebrating its new acquisition in Carman, the Winnipeg dealership was celebrating Ford's 100th anniversary with prizes in all departments.

"Ford is giving away 30 vehicles across Canada," Dennis said. "Anyone who bought a vehicle in June is eligible to win -- although we haven't had any winners in Manitoba yet."

He notes that Ford is also giving away 300 centennial edition jackets.

Landau Ford Lincoln also had a barbecue in mid-June to celebrate the centennial. "We are planning a bigger event next year to celebrate Ford of Canada's 100th anniversary," says Landau GM Bob Friesen.

PHOTO

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 27, 2003 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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