We live in a world where loyalty is generally passé and longevity in the work place is a rare commodity indeed. Denis Verrier is one of the exceptions.
On Friday, Sept. 16, from 5 to 7 p.m., the Birchwood Auto Group and Birchwood GM are hosting a reception in celebration of Verrier’s 50th anniversary working at the GM store. Verrier is looking forward to seeing many of his customers and friends.
In a sales career spanning almost 50 years – he started at the Birchwood store in the service department – Verrier reports he has sold about 12,000 vehicles. “In the 1980s, I was General Motors’ top Canadian sales rep for a number of years,” he says.
His approach to sales — as noted in a story written about him by Ted Allan in the Winnipeg Free Press 26 years ago — combines friendliness, patience, full disclosure, a thorough attention to detail, outstanding customer service and a strong work ethic learned growing up on the family farm in St. Norbert.
When his father died, Verrier — who was then 15 — and his brother were forced to drop out of school to work on the farm full time as market gardeners. Verrier originally went to work in the auto business to supplement the family’s farm income.
That was 57 years ago. The first dealership he worked for was Dixon Motors where he parked cars, worked in the parts department and later in the office. He had been working in the Birchwood Chevrolet service department when Terry Alcock, who was the sales manager at the time, encouraged him to try auto sales.
“I was hesitant at first to work on commission,” Verrier recalls. “I had a young family and a house with a mortgage. I decided to give it a try. In my first month, I earned five times my former monthly salary.”
For 40 years, Verrier notes, he put in 13 hours a day, six days a week. It was only 10 years ago, after an accident with one of his horses (he was also a long-time horse breeder) required that he have hip replacement surgery that he slowed down. “Mr. (Bob) Chipman (the founder of the Birchwood Group and Verrier’s boss) encouraged me to take it easier,” Verrier says. “He told me that I could set my own hours. So I cut back to five days a week.
“The Chipman Family has been very good to me over the years. They have been great people to work for.”
As passionate as Verrier is about selling cars, he is equally passionate about Corvettes and street rods. He says at one time he owned nine Corvettes at the same time.
And in 1995, he bought a ‘35 Chevy and — over the next six years — turned it into a street rod. “I was the Canadian Street Rod Champion in 2001 and finished runner-up in the competition in Detroit the same year,” he says. “Over the last 15 years, I have shown my street rod all over North America.”
Seven years ago, he built a 12-car garage which, he says, currently houses eight cars. “I have a 2007 Corvette which June (his wife) and I have driven thousands of miles over the past two years,” he says.
Although Denis Verrier is now 75, he has no plans to put his feet up and retire. “I like people,” he says with the customary sparkle in his eye. “My customers are like family to me.”
Dealer of the week
Sales Rep: He Zhang
Dealership: Winnipeg Audi
No. of Years: 7
Favourite Model: 2017 Audi A4
Why: "I like the A4's new design, new features and new technology," Zhang says. "The 2017 A4 is more powerful than the previous models."