Western Toronto International Trucks
Formed in 2006, Western Toronto International Trucks specializes in selling new trucks, international parts, all-make parts, and service. Western Toronto International Trucks’ Idealease franchise services class 5 to class 8 trucks, while also providing a full range of financial packages and full service lease packages to its growing customer base.
“We are the only international dealership in the Western Toronto marketplace, which is the heaviest concentration of transportation operations in Ontario,” Fred Hildebrand, Vice-President of Sales, Western Toronto International Trucks, told The Canadian Business Journal. “Because we are an international dealer, we have a full line of product to sell, from class 5 to class 8, which no other original equipment manufacturer (OEM) exceeds.”
Emerging as an industry leader
The International Truck and Engine Corporation was recently honoured by J.D. Power and Associates as No. 1 in customer satisfaction by heavy duty truck buyers, a recognition from which Western Toronto International Trucks benefits because of its association with International Truck and Engine Corporation, having the largest dealer network in North America.
An extensive range of services sees Western Toronto International Trucks offer trucks to both sell and lease. For instance, Western Toronto International Trucks does plenty of business in selling trucks to municipalities, a market segment that, according to Hildebrand, wasn’t hit with as much impact—comparably so—during the recent economic downturn.
Hildebrand explained, “One of the key things we did during recession was that we maintained our workforce. We didn’t slash our sales force, either on new trucks, leasing, parts and service. We had to tighten up, but we retained our workforce, and it has really helped us going forward as the markets improved.”
Added Robert Grassi, Secretary Treasurer, Western Toronto International Trucks, and a new addition to the company himself, “On the parts side [of our business], we actually increased the customer service aspect during the recession. We didn’t cut back on delivery service, we kept the sales force intact and kept offering more to our customers during that time and it seemed to work because today we have developed our parts sales business over the last few years.
“From a recession standpoint, there wasn’t a lot of other opportunities but on the service side. We’re like a one stop shop that can do it all, and we’re well trained in that area, so that’s where we invested during the recession to come out of it healthier.”
What also separates Western Toronto International Trucks from others in its marketplace is its internal attitude.
“Our culture here…I think you can win on culture, and with our culture we strive very hard not to let the customers feel the impact of the recession. We are reaping the benefits of that in just about every facet of the business,” said Hildebrand, who then added, “The fact that we are an international dealer certainly helped us in the recession in terms of having a wider product line to make up some of the deficiencies in other areas.”
Driving toward the future
With a goal in mind of growing its parts business, Western Toronto International Trucks will develop this segment of its operations over the next few years. The company is investigating opening a scaled-down, parts-only dealership in its AOR, an area that provides Western Toronto International Trucks with several key customers.
“As our lease fleet continues to grow, and in order to better serve our customers, we’ll look at a satellite dealership somewhere in our AOR—more toward the city—that service the key customers in that area. The AOR we have is rather big, it’s concentrated, and it’s very competitive, but there is still opportunity to grow that we haven’t really tapped into.
“Part of this philosophy, back to the change in ownership in May 2006 [when Western Toronto International Trucks was purchased by Chicago-based Navistar Corp.] is to get the dealership today to a point where it is humming along, doesn’t need a lot of attention, so senior management can look elsewhere to grow the business. It is a few years out, but we’re on the path.”
Grassi also insightfully elaborated on an area where, despite its vast developments in recent years, the Canadian trucking industry is still lacking.
“The industry lacks focus on the IT side of the business. I think there are still opportunities to streamline, implement better systems, better processes to take the dealership years ahead, like other businesses investing in IT. I think [the industry] is still trying to shake the ‘old boys’ industry. When you have some vision in IT, you can leap ahead of the competition.”
Engaging environmental efforts
According to Hildebrand, the entire truck manufacturing industry has, in recent years, been driven heavily to reduce emissions.
“We’re proud of the industry. You can see the struggle it causes to revamp engines to meet particular emission requirements, but it is part of an overall industry that has made huge strides in emissions.”
As part of this initiative, Western Toronto International Trucks, as an eStar dealer, provides its customer base with hybrid vehicles as well as Navistar’s electric vehicle.
“The International Truck and Engine Corporation (owned by Navistar), has a unique approach to meeting emissions standards which is starting to gain a lot of traction in the marketplace as well,” Hildebrand said.
“We spend a lot of money every year training our mechanics and technicians. We’re really focusing on taking care of our employees and the customers. We really believe in it and it’s evidenced in our employee retention and our customer growth.
“In any aspect of our business, if we are looking for bona fide customer references for a new prospect, we don’t have any problem opening up our books and saying ‘Who do you want to call?’ We’re not perfect, but we try really hard to meet the customers’ demands.”