Trillium Automobile Dealers Association

Serving the interest of Ontario New Car
and Truck Dealerships for over 100 years

Switching to a new franchise is no mean feat

Published on Friday, 11 May 2012

My family purchased a Hyundai franchise in 2010. Working with Hyundai Canada has been a fascinating and educational experience for me, and for all of our staff members.

Our new Hyundai franchise (Pine View Hyundai) is located on the same premises as our former General Motors franchise (Pine View Pontiac Buick GMC) at the corner of Hwy. 7 and Weston Road in Woodbridge.

Due to GM’s restructuring in 2009, the Pontiac division was terminated, which resulted in the subsequent closing of our Pontiac franchise. For almost 40 years, our family — and employees — represented the GM brand, and our personal and professional identities were closely tied to GM.

When we acquired the Hyundai franchise, it was a great opportunity for our dealership to reinvent itself, and to work with one of the world’s leading and progressive automakers. But making the transition from one automobile brand to another has not been easy.

During our 40 years as a GM store, we had developed many long-term relationships with customers. The majority of our customers were in their middle-aged and senior years. In representing Hyundai, we find ourselves serving a different customer base — a much younger demographic, including many first-time car buyers.

Automobile brands are as different as night and day, with diverse business philosophies, marketing strategies and corporate identities. With Hyundai, getting accustomed to their business processes, policies and expectations has proved to be challenging because of the cultural and philosophical differences.

One of the terms of any automobile franchise agreement includes specific architectural and design elements of a dealership. To conform to Hyundai’s branding requirements, we had to undergo a complete facelift of our premises, inside and out.

The front façade of the dealership had to change, as did the colour scheme, lighting and signage. Inside the facility, design elements, furniture and colour schemes were altered as well.

This is not unusual. Dealers are required to comply with the automaker’s brand requirements so that its image remains consistent from dealership to dealership. With any global franchise, brand identity is a critical feature that helps to distinguish one company over another.

Today, because of its drive for quality and customer satisfaction, Hyundai ranks as one of the top automotive brands in the world, according to Motor Trend, J.D. Power and Associates and other recognized indices.

From a product knowledge perspective, learning how to conduct business as a Hyundai dealership required a learning curve for our staff members, particularly for salespeople, service advisers and automotive technicians.

While our staff has done an exceptional job adapting to Hyundai’s operating standards and procedures, and representing the Hyundai brand with skill and professionalism, reaction from customers has been mixed.

Some longtime customers have openly embraced the Hyundai brand and they have not hesitated to do business with us under the Hyundai nameplate. Interestingly, there are some customers, despite driving past our dealership every day, who are still surprised to learn that we no longer represent GM.

I guess local residents were so accustomed to seeing a GM sign on the front of the building for so many years that, after a while, they just stopped paying attention. I’ve heard similar stories from other dealers who have changed brands on the same premises.

To be honest, some regular customers have chosen to remain loyal to GM and have taken their business elsewhere (that wasn’t unexpected). Many have embraced the Hyundai brand with open arms and are extremely pleased with our new product lines.

It will take time to build our customers base and to establish relationships with customers under a new nameplate. But our team is ready for the challenge. We are excited to represent the Hyundai brand, and we’re looking forward to a new beginning.

Trillium Automobile Dealers Association president Frank Romeo is a new car dealer in the GTA. This column represents the view of TADA. Visit tada.ca or email president@tada.ca

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