Winnipeg’s largest auto group just got bigger. On March 1, the Birchwood Auto Group (with 12 standalone new-car stores representing 15 brands) added the House of Nissan (renamed Birchwood Nissan) to its portfolio of new-car dealerships.
This is the first time in more than 25 years the Birchwood Auto Group has looked outside of the Winnipeg to expand. “We are always looking for new investment opportunities,” said Steve Chipman, the Birchwood Auto Group’s president. “There are not many such opportunities left in Winnipeg. We prefer staying within Manitoba. Brandon has a good economy and a growing population.”
Chipman noted the Birchwood Group did have partnerships in several stores outside of Winnipeg in the 1970s and ’80s. “My dad (the late Bob Chipman) bought into dealerships outside of Winnipeg to help new dealers get started,” said Chipman. “The plan was always to have the partners buy dad out after they became established.”
Chipman reports he had been talking to the Ball family for a number of years about purchasing their Nissan store. “We like the Nissan brand,” he said. “(Former House of Nissan dealer principal) Bruce (Ball) thought that it was a good time to sell.”
Bruce Ball and his son Brodie also operate Viking Motors in Arborg in the Interlake while Ron Ball, Bruce’s brother, is president of Precision Toyota in Brandon, where Ron’s son, Scott, is the general manager. The House of Nissan has been in operation in Brandon since the late 1970s.
The renamed Birchwood Nissan in Brandon measures about 8,000 square feet and has sales of about 200 new cars a year. “We will be shortly installing a new general manager and fixed operations manager,” said Chipman. “We will also be putting new processes into place. We are looking at a transition period of about two months.”
Chipman notes there are a good group of (11) new-car dealers in Brandon. (The Ball family also operates Precision Toyota in Brandon.) “We know them (the other dealers) all and are looking forward to working with them,” he said.
After trying early retirement for six months and finding it wanting, Gerald Boiteau is back in the car business as the new general manager at Crown Mazda. One of the most dynamic individuals in the local industry, Boiteau has a number of ideas for putting more zoom-zoom in Crown Mazda’s sales.
“We are working to transform Crown Mazda into more of a boutique store,” said Boiteau. “We will have one of the first Mazda boutique stores in Canada. We will be making a lot of changes in the coming months. We will be installing high end fixtures, adding to our sales team and opening up our service shop to the customers. There will be more details to follow. “We hope to make a real impact in the marketplace.”
Reinhold Bergen is Canada’s top Mazda service technician. The eight-year Crown Mazda veteran won the honour at the annual Mazda Canada Master Technician Competition — held in Toronto on March 24.
To qualify for the competition, a technician must have at least three years experience, take a number of courses and pass an exam with a grade of at least 80 per cent.
At the competition, Bergen was up against nine other technicians representing dealerships from across Canada. Each was presented with a Mazda model with eight problems to be diagnosed and fixed within two hours.
Sales Rep: Jamie Ybarra
Dealership: McNaught Cadillac Buick GMC
No. of Years: seven months
Favourite Model: Cadillac CTS
Why: “I like the sleek lines on the CTS,” Ybarra says. “And it’s a great performance vehicle.”