The drive to be the best

This time of year, Volvo of Mississauga is operating like the well-tuned engines it services, preparing customers’ cars for the imminent blizzard and ice of the Canadian winter.

“From the first week of November onwards we are busy transitioning cars from summer to winter,” says Volvo of Mississauga President Robert McMillian, smiling.

It’s one of his favourite times of the year because it affords the opportunity to see his customers—many of whom are old friends by now—before the holidays.

Volvo of Mississauga is part of a pedigree of automobile sales in Canada. For 50 years, Volvo of Mississauga and its staff have made a unmatched commitment to superior customer service, product advice and sales excellence.

Throughout different incarnations, the Volvo of Mississauga team has the unique distinction of having served customers for over 50 years, when McMillan’s father Thomas, alongside partner Eric Saunders, first started the business in 1957 in Malton, Ont. Many of Volvo of Mississauga’s employees have been around long enough to remember when the current location in the “heartland of Mississauga”, at 797 Bancroft Drive, was farmland—a far cry from the bustling commercial centre it now is.

In 1996, McMillian took what he describes as a “bold move”, opening his first new car dealership. Ten years later, he opened Volvo of Mississauga—one of the country’s fastest growing cities—in what is obvious to the outside observer as a labour of love, and consistently in the Top 5 dealerships in the country annually.

As President of the Toronto Automobile Dealers Association, McMillian was asked to write for the Toronto Star’s Wheels column. In it, he wrote, “Every day offers new challenges, opportunities and experiences. As a dealer principal, I enjoy helping our employees grow and prosper and helping customers realize their car ownership dreams. At the end of the day, that’s what the car business means to me.”

“Even in the economic times that Canada has gone through over the last number of years, that the world has gone through, we have done very well. It’s been a very good business proposition for us, a very good move. Our customers have received this location very well, and we have picked up many more [customers] in this location as well.”

“It’s a very exciting time to be a Volvo dealer right now, there is a lot of transition and change,” says McMillian. For one, customers are impressed by the dealership’s modern facility, which had millions of dollars invested into it to be one of Volvo’s first global “Next Face of Volvo” buildings. Based on Swedish architectural minimalist design, the facility boasts natural sunlight, open concept and is “more glass than walls.”

“It was the first in the world,” says lead Architect Robert Arnone to Canadian Auto World.

The “Next Face of Volvo” campaign is proving to be a success, with two-thirds of dealerships in Canada being redone. “We had dealers from all over North America and Sweden come take a look at the dealership, most were modelled after this one during that period which has been a great location for us,” says McMillian.

But the new design was not only for customers’ enjoyment, but rather built with the Volvo of Mississauga team in mind. “The Next Face of Volvo facility is a very Scandinavian design, very open concept. It is a very pleasant environment to work at,” says McMillian. “It was built with employees and customers in mind and is one of the best facilities in North America for an employee to work at. And when you have happy employees you have good strong long-term employees that entail you to keep your customers happy.”

Volvo of Mississauga has deep roots in the Mississauga business community and has long ties with companies that support its core business, such as Kestenberg, Rabinowicz, Partners (KRP).

“Volvo of Mississauga has retained KRP for our corporate and personal accounting services for over 25 years,” says McMillian. “Their Partners provide us with hands-on support. We have a one-on-one relationship with the people who manage our accounts, many who have been with KRP for years. They know and understand our business and offer creative ideas on how we can grow in new directions.”

Volvo of Mississauga customers will also soon be seeing the benefits of Geeley of China’s 2010 acquisition of Volvo which boosted major capital and buying power into the brand.

And what is it about Volvo that keeps customers and families returning (some families with two and three generations driving the vehicles)? “It revolves around safety, reliability, and durability—those have always been Volvo’s core assets. These days to be successful in the marketplace, besides those core values you have to have styling, and the new products that Volvo has coming in (such as the S60 and the XC60) meet the challenges of the marketplace extremely well.”

“Volvo is investing huge sums of money into the corporation to bring new products to market,” reflects McMillian. “Cars that we receive here in North America will still be Swedish built but the ownership of the Chinese brings a whole new influx of customers which helps the dynamics for everybody.”

That which is done with joy has a lasting effect, a notion that applies well to McMillian and Volvo of Mississauga. With a history like this business has, and the dedication and drive to continue providing exemplary customer service and products, Volvo of Mississauga will continue contributing to its community and people for generations to come.