Profile on Michael Croxon
of NewRoads Automotive Group
By Ross Fattori
WHEN MICHAEL CROXON first entered the retail car industry, he had big shoes to fill. His father, Noel Croxon, was a legendary figure in the car business as the founder/owner of North York Chevrolet, one of Canada’s largest volume GM dealerships. Growing up in a car family and working in various capacities at his father’s dealership during his youth, Michael enjoyed those experiences, but he was undecided about his future. After high school, he attended University of Western Ontario, he spent a year working at Expo 86 in Vancouver, and another year backpacking through Europe and Asia. “In the spring of 1987, my father offered me a position in Used Cars,” says Michael, President of NewRoads Automotive Group. “From that position, I gained a deeper appreciation for the business and worked my way up through various sales management positions to GSM, to General Manager, and to Dealer Principal in 1997.” At all stages of Michael’s career, his father provided invaluable guidance and support. “My Dad is a remarkable guy and has always been fully supportive of both my aspirations as well as my brothers’ and sisters’ (both of whom have done great things outside of the car business),” Michael says. “He has always been a great leader of people and does so in an understated way and void of ego. The way in which he unconsciously managed and lead people are the foundation for one of our corporate pillars today — Employee Engagement.”
During Michael’s early years in the car business, he decided to replicate the formula that had worked so well at North York Chevrolet. What followed— over the past two decades — has been a series of acquisitions and sales: today, NewRoads owns five stores in the northern GTA (GM, Chrysler, Subaru x 2 and Mazda). The company also owned a BMW and Kia franchises, but sold both those stores. Today, Michael recognizes the advantage of operating a dealer group, as opposed to an individual store. “We have the ability to spread some of the necessary expenses such as HR, social media and a call centre across multiple rooftops,” he says. “Administratively, we can also combine some resources under one rooftop. Having all of our Dealerships branded NewRoads has its advantages when it comes to marketing. We hope that the brand will become synonymous with automotive in the northern 905 and hope when one store advertises, there is spill for the rest of the group.” The automobile industry is in the midst of a massive transformation in areas of vehicle design, performance, safety, car buying processes, ride sharing and autonomous vehicles. One of the challenges for dealerships is figuring out where the market will be in five and 10 years. “This is one of the things I devote a lot of time thinking about,” says Michael. “The combination of online shopping/buying, electrification and ultimately autonomous driving all have potentially huge implications for our business model going forward — the later being likely the most disruptive.” Michael believes that major disruptions may occur in the retail side of the industry, but not for decades (industry pundits have predicted it will happen much sooner). “While incremental changes will occur over the next decade, the Manufacturer/ Dealer/Customer model will remain the cornerstone of the automotive business — at least for the next decade or two,” says Michael.
Throughout his career, Michael has always made a point of giving back to the community, a value that is integral to the NewRoads philosophy and brand under Michael’s leadership. “Community, along with Employee Engagement, Customer Enthusiasm and Performance, is one of our four Pillars,” says Michael. “And, we continuously look for ways to positively impact the communities of Newmarket, East Gwillimbury, Bradford, Aurora and Richmond Hill. We look for things in which we can actively participate, as opposed to simply writing a cheque.” Examples of New Roads’ philanthropy include an annual Girls Night Out Event and the NewRoads Lake Ride — two events which NewRoads hosts and in which its associates actively participate. The company hosts four events each year, including The NewRoads Children’s Dream Golf Tournament and The NewRoads Classic Car Show, where associates are encouraged to volunteer their time (associates’ volunteering efforts are part of the company’s annual performance review process). In today's competitive automotive marketplace, the challenges of operating a successful dealer group are complicated and constant. One of those challenges is developing and retaining talent for both the technical and non-technical side of the business. “We live in a time where people want balance in their lives and our industry historically has not been great at providing that,” says Michael. “I have often suggested to our associates that our people are the only real competitive advantage we have and creating an environment where they want to come to work every day is one of my primary focuses.” As Michael reflects back on three decades working in the retail auto industry, he is proud of the career path that he chose and the automotive group that he has built. "My Dad always stressed the importance of having goals,” he says. “One of mine once I had learned the business was from my early days in this industry was to build a group of stores. And, while it was slightly less common when we started doing so, clearly it is a trend that has exploded over the past few decades. We are now small by group standards, but I like our position in terms of geography and brands. You have to put it out there and envision it, before it will happen. “While I would not necessarily classify myself as a ‘car guy,’ I am proud and appreciative of the products we represent. I have never been one to collect exotic or classic cars. I love the business and the people interaction within it. The vehicles are simply a conduit to that. One of my favorite expressions is “it always looks better in someone else’s driveway.” When he is not overseeing operations at NewRoads Automotive Group, Michaels loves to ski and snowshoe in the winter and golf and cycle in the summer. “My three kids take up a lot of my time as well, and I really enjoy spending time with them,” he says.