Myron Love / Winnipeg Free Press
Bava Dhillon, Paul Dhillon and Rocky Dhillon at grand opening for new Dhillon Auto Group store on Pembina Highway.
The Dhillon Auto Group has expanded its presence in Winnipeg with the grand opening, on Sept. 21, of its second store at 715 Pembina Hwy., formerly the home of the MacIver Family’s Ride Time — which is itself now located in a brand new facility on Oak Point Road.
The day-long grand opening attracted more than 500 people. Among the special guests were MLAs Ron Schuler (who is also the Minister of Crown Services), Andrew Smith and John Reyes, and Winnipeg Blue Bomber star Andrew Harris, with Energy 106 broadcasting live from the event. There was also a food drive for Winnipeg Harvest and animal welfare group CAARE Rescue brought some dogs for adoption.
“We gave away tons of free oil change and tire rotation vouchers at our grand opening,” says Rocky Dhillon, who is heading up the new store. “We also gave out some Jets and Bombers tickets.”
The Dhillon Auto Group is a family-run venture that focuses on customer service with a personal touch. One of the features that stands out about the business is that it is one of the very few auto dealerships that is owned by a family with an aboriginal background. While Dhillon Auto Group founder Paul Dhillon is originally from India, his wife, Barind, is of local Cree ancestry.
Paul came to Winnipeg and Canada 25 years ago. Before going into auto sales, he operated a garage and a travel agency. He opened his first used car dealership, Canwest Automotive on Sargent Avenue, in 2005. His oldest son, Rocky, was originally headed for a career in law. “I went to school in London and earned a law degree,” he says, “but practising law wasn’t for me. I worked with Dad for a time in the travel agency. Then, I went into car sales.”
Rocky Dhillon went to work in sales at Midway Chrysler and quickly made an impact. After Midway closed, he moved to Orion Chevrolet, where he was also a sales leader. After the Birchwood Group bought Orion, Dhillon moved to the Dilawri Auto Group. For the past 10 years, he had been operating Automotive Source of Canada, which is now part of the Dhillon Auto Group.
Bava Dhillon is a Red River College graduate (Business) who co-founded Canwest Automotive with his father. Rounding out the family members in the business are Barind Dhillon (Paul’s wife and Bava and Rocky’s mother), who is the office manager for the new Pembina store, and Sabrina Dhillion (Rocky and Bava’s sister), who runs the Canwest Automotive office.
The new location carries about 80 late-model vehicles and has five service bays.
“We have recruited two top mechanics for our service department,” Rocky says. “The response we have had for our new location has been amazing.” Rocky reports that the family has been in touch with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs about building on the Dhillon family’s long-standing relationship with Manitoba First Nations communities.
Ed Chudd recognized by MMDA
Ed Chudd was just nine years old when he sold his first new car at his dad’s garage in Gimli and — 75 years later — the soon-to-be 85-year-old is still coming to work every day at Manitoba’s oldest Chrysler store.
On Sept. 16, the Manitoba Motor Dealers Association recognized Chudd’s achievement with a special presentation as part of the MMDA’s fourth annual social evening.
The evening was attended by about 250 industry members including many of the staff from Chudd’s Chrysler and Power Sports in Gimli.
(The MMDA also raised $65,000 during the course of the evening for industry training, recruitment and scholarship initiatives.)
“We are all very proud of our dad for his proud service, for his 75 years of service to the industry and to our community,” says Kevin Chudd, who manages the family-owned business.
“He has contributed in his typical style and approach of being very low-keyed and without wanting recognition. Our dad is very generous to others in so many ways, which is something that we have learned from him and appreciated as a family what he stands for.”
Kevin notes that his grandfather, John, moved to the resort/Icelandic community on the southwest Lake Winnipeg shore from Regina in 1929.
He originally opened a business as a blacksmith.
He began selling Chryslers as a sub-dealer for Breen Motors in 1933. (Breen Motors in Winnipeg had the Chrysler franchise for an area extending from the lakehead to the Alberta border back then.) He became an independent Chrysler dealer in 1945.
“It was a different world in the 1940s when Dad started selling cars,” he says. “Kids still went to work early in life.”
Ed took over the business from his father in 1957 and was the only salesman for Chudd’s into the mid ‘80s. Today, the business has 72 employees between its Chrysler and Power Sports operations. (Chudd became a power sport dealer in 1999.)
For years, he recalls, his father went to work six days a week. “Mom (Joan Chudd) was also involved in the business. To Mom and Dad, our staff was like family. We have a lot of long-standing staff members,” Kevin says.
Kevin notes that his father did have opportunities over the years to leave Gimli and operate a Chrysler store in a larger community. “The quality of life in Gimli kept them here,” he says.
Kevin reports that the family plans to do something at the dealership sometime in October – probably after Thanksgiving – to celebrate both Ed’s longevity in auto sales and Ed and Joan’s 60th wedding anniversary.
In a postscript to this story, Ed was able to buy back that first car he sold — a 1941 Dodge Special Deluxe — in the mid-60s. Kevin and his brother, Mike, are still working to restore it.