Building on success

by Myron Love  . Sep 23 2016
Professional storm chaser Chris Chittick with customized Ford F-150 "Flash" during guest appearance at Capital Ford Lincoln.

Professional storm chaser Chris Chittick with customized Ford F-150 "Flash" during guest appearance at Capital Ford Lincoln.

Walt Morris, Manitoba’s top-selling Chrysler dealer for the past 10 years in a row, is looking forward to enjoying the same success with his newly acquired Kenora Chevrolet Buick GMC.

The official rebranding of the 40-year-old Kenora, Ont., GM store took place on Sept. 2, with a ribbon cutting ceremony and a charity barbecue fundraiser on behalf of the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board’s breakfast program.

Morris, who is associated with the McManus Group of Companies, purchased the former Kantola GM from the Kantola Family on Aug. 1.

“The Kantola Family did an awesome job building up the business,” Morris says. “The store has an outstanding reputation for sales and service which we look forward to building on.”

Morris describes his new store as a medium-sized dealership with a staff of about 30.

The Kantola family invested in the new GM image upgrade a few years ago, he reports, so no major changes to the facility are planned.

Morris notes that several Kantola family members are remaining as part of the business, including general sales manager Rod Kantola. The only staff change has been the appointment of Brendan Morris, Walt Morris’ son, as sales manager. Brendan Morris has been in auto sales for the past 13 years. He had been working at Winnipeg Dodge Chrysler since 2012.

In the new year, Morris reports, he will be transforming his Walt Morris Automotive Pre-Owned Supercentre in the Waverly Auto Mall into Winnipeg’s first Fiat, Maserati, Ferrari dealership.

Winnipeg Dodge technician tops in Western Canada

There was a celebration of a different kind at Morris’ Winnipeg Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram on Sept. 15, when Winnipeg Dodge service technician Katelin Smith was awarded the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Mastertech Challenge Hands-on Award.

The award recognizes Smith as the top Fiat Chrysler technician in Western Canada.

“To win this award is an amazing feat,” said Morris at the presentation. “Katelin is also the first female technician in Manitoba to accomplish this achievement.

“The future of our service department is in good hands as we attract people like Katelin.”

The worldwide competition is open to all FCA technicians, noted Thomas Samuel, Chrysler Canada area manager for western Canada, in making the presentation.

Qualifiers must complete a minimum 11 of 12 Mastertech monthly tests and timed multiple choice test before entering the final exam.

They are tested against the clock to diagnose and repair an issue, and then the repair is tested for quality. Chrysler has 160 dealers across western Canada.

Smith expressed surprise at having won the award. “It feels pretty good,” she said.

The young service technician began learning her trade from her father who operated an auto shop in the small community of Hilbre, north of Ashern in the Interlake. “I started spending time at the shop when I was a very young kid,” she said.

She studied power mechanics in high school and continued her education at Red River College.

She began working at Winnipeg Dodge in 2013.

With her win, Smith earned a spot in the national finals held Sept. 21 to 23 in Atlanta.

As a reward for winning the Western Canada division, she will spend three days at the Skip Barber Racing School.

New sales manager at Winnipeg Dodge

Len Peech has found a new home at Winnipeg Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram. The dealership’s newly appointed used car manager has been in auto sales for 17 years, all with domestic dealers.

“I like the fast pace here,” says Peech, who joined the company at the beginning of August.

“Walt is a great guy to work for. And it’s nice being part of the top-selling Chrysler sales team on the Prairies.”

Storm Chaser visits Capital Ford Lincoln

Internationally known storm chaser Chris Chittick and his trusty Ford F150 truck, “Flash,” stopped in Winnipeg for a few days in the second week of September to publicize his shows on Country Music Television Canada and the Discovery Channel. This writer caught up with Chittick at Capital Ford Lincoln where he was holding court on Sept. 12.

(He was also scheduled to put in appearances at some Winnipeg schools where he would be providing tips on keeping safe in extreme weather conditions.)

Originally from Michigan, Chittick has been chasing storms since 1998.

For the past couple of years, his operation has been based out of Regina.

“It started as a hobby,” he says, “and turned into a full time career.

“My team and I are extreme weather reporters,” he adds.

Chittick is part of a three-man team including a driver, still photographer and videographer.

He shoots the video.

“Unfortunately, it was a good season for us this past year,” he says. “That isn’t good news for a lot of other people.

“Ninety-Five (per cent) of what we do is chase tornadoes in the United States. Tornado Alley averages about 1,500 tornadoes a year.”

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Photos by Myron Love / Winnipeg Free PressWinnipeg Dodge Chrysler President Walt Morris with award winning service tech Katelin Smith. Smith well represents the level of service that the dealership strives to maintain.

Photos by Myron Love / Winnipeg Free Press

Winnipeg Dodge Chrysler President Walt Morris with award winning service tech Katelin Smith. Smith well represents the level of service that the dealership strives to maintain.