In 1959, 22-year-old Otto Koller left his small farming community in Switzerland. He arrived in Ottawa, Ontario, with only $1000 in his pocket and no previous knowledge of the English language. Yet Otto knew the value of hard work and the importance of customer satisfaction. In less than a year, he landed a position at a local dealership, beginning what would become a highly profitable career.
By 1964, Otto was well-versed in the automotive industry (Otto Koller was a BMW technician in Switzerland.)He recognized an underserved section in the market – although there was a demand for BMW product, no Canadian auto retailer seemed interested in carrying the brand. Otto travelled to Germany, looking to discover how he could bring the BMW name to his country.
Otto received 10 BMWs in his first shipment at White Rose gas station on the corner of Carling and Churchhill (currently Shell at 1607 Carling Ave). Those cars are pre-sold in prior of the receiving. He was asked to open a dealership at the corner of Tweedsmuir and Richmond, where he bought used cars. This is also the current location of Otto’s Subaru.
Otto opened his first BMW dealership in Ottawa in 1969 – 17 years before BMW Canada began operations. Otto’s BMW was the very first BMW dealership to enter the Canadian market, setting a precedent for all future BMW automotive professionals. The dealership quickly gained a reputation for high-quality service and a genuine concern for customer satisfaction.
His second dealership was Swedish Saab dealer, which was 4 wheel-drive, very similar to current Subaru. Soon after, he added the Land Rover model to the BMW dealership.
Otto sold Datsun (former company of Nissan) and Russian car model Lada. Lada was the most popular car due to its reasonable cost. In 1981, Otto received an award of the best dealership in the world by Lada and asked to open a dealership in Gatineau. He asked his wife Huguette to operate the new dealership. With one car in a showroom and one car for test drives, Huguette sold 640 Ladas. In 1983, Russia shot down a South Korean airplane, and people boycotted Russian-made products. In the same year, Huguette was offered a dealership by Chrysler.
In 1986 Otto opened, Otto’s Subaru. Otto brought the same level of customer service and commitment to quality as at his previous dealership, while further establishing the Koller name within the community.
In 1989, Honda offered Huguette and Otto a dealership, where Huguette already operated a Chrysler facility.
In 1998, Otto Koller passed away. At that time, each dealership (Honda, Chrysler, Land Rover, BMW, Subaru) wanted a stand-alone business. Since Otto and Huguette built the Subaru store in 1986, and Hugette wanted to keep BMW as a first dealership in Canada, Huguette and Otto’s daughter Sonia decided to keep only two dealerships BMW and Subaru.
In 2003, Hugette and Sonia built a new BMW dealership on Hunt Club, where it is currently located.
What Otto made success was the importance of service- the staff promise the very best experience possible to clients. The Koller family and its employees learn from it and live by this. Sonia learned this value at a very young age, and continues to live it daily.
Today, Otto’s legacy lives on in both dealerships. His wife, Huguette, shares her husband’s love of the automotive industry, currently acting as President of Otto’s BMW and Otto’s Subaru. Otto Koller’s daughter, Sonia, now leads the Otto’s BMW and Otto’s Subaru teams as Dealer Principal.
Both Otto’s dealerships operate on one core principle: to develop original approaches in all areas of customer care and service. At Otto’s, the staff do more than represent the original BMW dealership in Canada, they offer innovative solutions to customer needs, build meaningful relationships with clients, and ensure that no visitor’s trust is ever taken for granted.
Otto’s BMW is located at 660 Hunt Club Road, Ottawa, Ontario. The dealership sells both new and pre-owned BMW vehicles. It boasts an extensive products and service department, and offers customer service by employees from many different countries. Otto used to call it “the united nations”. He believed that immigrants bring different ideas and knowledge, and enjoyed learning from them.
On February 12 2014, Huguette Koller was recognized through the receipt of The 2013 Person of the Year Award for community engagement and volunteer efforts. Shortly after, on February 18, 2014, Otto’s BMW won the Fabio Award, given by Faces Magazine, for Best Car Dealership in the Ottawa area.
Otto’s Subaru sits less than twenty minutes northeast of Otto’s BMW, at 225 Richmond Road. This state-of-the art facility offers the same level of customer care and service as its sister dealership. Here, patrons can view and purchase several pre-owned and new Subaru models. Otto’s Subaru is currently Ontario’s No.1 volume dealer, ranking as one of the very best automotive sales locations in Canada.
In 2011, the Koller family opened Otto’s Collision Centre. Here, Otto’s customers can receive repair and service work quickly and efficiently. This offering helps Otto’s build long-term, meaningful relationships with its customers.
In 2012, the Otto’s name adopted a new meaning. The Koller family decided to open Otto’s 2, the Ottawa region’s very first boutique-style pre-owned vehicle sales and trade-in centre. Here, customers can rest assured their vehicle has been inspected and meets the very highest quality assessments.
The Otto’s professional staff assess each vehicle prior to purchasing. Each selected vehicle must have low mileage and a clear, reliable ownership record. The vehicles undergo comprehensive testing and a full reconditioning before becoming available on the Otto’s 2 lot.
“Whether a car is traded in, a wholesale purchase, or a lease return, all of our potential vehicles are inspected for body damage, and undergo a comprehensive 152 point inspection,” says Luc Romanica, Otto’s 2 Sales Manager.
“Our customers can expect full disclosure and pricing adjusted to reflect the reality of the vehicle,” he adds.
All parts with more than 50% wear are replaced, and accessories and options are all in top-notch working order.
Through owning and operating an exclusively pre-owned dealership, the Otto’s family can offer the Ottawa region an extensive selection of vehicles at competitive prices. All vehicles on the lot are also available online at www.ottos2.ca.
When Otto Koller first entered Canada, he relied on the kindness and advice of the country’s citizens to help him get started. As he grew more successful, he remembered his humble beginnings and the importance those individuals had played in his life.
Giving back to the community is something that has always been a part of the Otto’s legacy. In 2009, the Koller family established Otto’s Planet, a charitable program that aims to enrich lives, inspire people, and make a noticeable positive impact on the Ottawa community. Otto’s staff refer to the Koller’s dedication to Otto’s Planet as “one of the biggest parts of the business.”
Causes supported through Otto’s Planet include Farm Africa, The Canadian Wildlife Federation, Doctors Without Borders, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Quick Start, Right to Play, Scouts Canada, The Ottawa Wild Bird Care Centre, The Ottawa Food Bank, The Ottawa Mission, The Bruyere Foundation, Moisson Outaouais, The Leading Note Foundation, Orkidstra, La Soupière de l’Amitié, and Water for People.
Every customer who purchases a vehicle at Otto’s BMW, Otto’s Subaru, or Otto’s 2 contributes to Otto’s Planet. During the sale, the customer is presented with a list of Otto’s causes. Whichever charity the customer selects is given a fixed donation amount through Otto’s Planet. Otto’s Planet also provides its causes with media coverage, financial support, and dedicated participation in events.
For more information on Otto’s dealerships, services, and community involvement, please visit www.ottos.ca