Winnipeg Free Press

Woodworth dealership expands its horizons

by Myron Love  . Jan 11 2019
Supplied Woodworth’s new Shoal Lake dealership is located in a former Manitoba Hydro building.


Woodworth’s new Shoal Lake dealership is located in a former Manitoba Hydro building.

Woodworth Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram is growing.

Under new management for just over a year, the small dealer group based in Kenton moved into its Shoal Lake satellite location in the town of about 1,200 in September.

“We moved into the 7,000-square-foot former Hydro building,” Woodworth dealer principal Nicole Madsen says. “Our new facility is quite a bit bigger than where we were before. At our new location, we also have a fenced-in lot where we can store peoples’ campers, RVs and skidoos over the winter.”

Woodworth Dodge Chrysler was founded by Don Carter in Kenton (population 150) in 1985. He added the Shoal Lake location in 1994 and opened a second satellite operation in Russell three years ago.

“Our market area ranges from Russell in the north to the Trans-Canada Highway and includes parts of eastern Saskatchewan,” Madsen reports. “We draw customers from other parts of Manitoba as well.”

On 2013, Carter was joined in partnership by Brandin Wilkinson, who started his career in auto sales in Virden. Wilkinson bought out Carter in the fall of 2017. At the same time, Madsen bought in as a partner. Wilkinson, the majority shareholder, relocated shortly afterward to Kelowna, B.C. — leaving Madsen in charge of day-to-day operations.

Madsen was not a newcomer to Woodworth Dodge Chrysler. She has been with the company for 28 years. Originally from Kenton, she returned to the area after college and found work at the dealership in what began as a term position.

“My background was in accounting,” she says. “I started in sales and was general manager when I was given the opportunity to buy into the dealership.”

She notes Don Carter is still involved in the business as a part-time sales representative.

Madsen reports that Woodworth thrives on repeat business and referrals. “We pride ourselves on being transparent and offering the best price right at the start of negotiations. We have introduced new processes that encourage our team members to operate more independently and efficiently.”

Madsen says she and Wilkinson are also considering expanding their sights a little farther to the east.

Birchwood Auto Group awarded Volkswagen franchise

For more than 30 years, Winnipeg’s two Volkswagen stores have had the Winnipeg market — all of Manitoba for that matter — all to themselves. That is about to change.

The Birchwood Auto Group has just been awarded a Volkswagen franchise for east Winnipeg. Although the details are still preliminary, Birchwood Group president Steve Chipman reports construction is tentatively set to begin in the spring on the new store, next door to Birchwood Ford on Regent Avenue. The 20,000-square-foot facility is expected to be completed by the spring of 2020.

“This was an opportunity for us to further diversify our product offerings,” Chipman says. “Volkswagen is one of the world’s top three auto manufacturers.”

Also in the works for the Birchwood Group is a new Lexus store. Currently Birchwood Lexus shares a building at the Pointe West AutoPark with Birchwood Toyota. Construction on a stand-alone Lexus store is also scheduled to begin in the spring in the Kenaston south area in what is developing as a neighbourhood for high-end import dealerships. Already, Mercedes-Benz Winnipeg and Audi Winnipeg are in the vicinity and Porsche Winnipeg is under construction next door to Audi Winnipeg.

The new 30,000-square-foot Lexus store should also be open for business in the spring of 2020.

Lance Fridfinnson reports he’s enjoying the rural pace

Lance Fridfinnson, the former Mid-Town Ford sales manager who retired in 2016, found that he wasn’t yet ready for the quiet life. So in October 2017, he returned to his rural roots in the industry as general sales manager at the long-established Melnick Motors in Beausejour.

“We are just 30 miles northeast of Winnipeg,” Fridfinnson says of Melnick Motors, a GM dealer. “We are a family-run dealership (led by Jeff Melnick) who offer friendly country-style service. We have a lot of longtime customers here and good people working here. We may have a smaller selection, but we have all the right stuff.”

Former Manitobans prospering on West Coast

After several years honing his skills in management in Winnipeg with the Crown Auto Group, Brent Sayles left our community in April 2017 for a new opportunity on the West Coast.

Sayles worked in the auto industry, mainly in management, in Winnipeg for 12 years. It was his former boss and past Crown Auto Group president, Glen Daman — who retired to the Vancouver area, but didn’t stay retired for long — who recruited him.

Darren Graham, a longtime friend of Daman’s and the founder and CEO of the Applewood Group, offered Daman a position, originally as group vice-president. Daman subsequently became Applewood’s president on July 1, 2016. About a year later, he brought Sayles on board as vice-president of sales as well as general manager of the Applewood Group’s two Nissan stores — one in Surrey and the other in Richmond.

The Applewood Group has four other dealerships — Kia stores in Surrey and Langley, the Original Applewood Motors Super Centre which sells used vehicles and a Ford store in Port Hardy on Vancouver Island.