Volkswagen celebrated its 60th birthday in Canada in 2012, and the Yorkdale Volkswagen dealership has been in the game for the past 40 years. The dealership was originally located on Weston Road, and then moved a bit closer to its current location. But once John Leeder purchased the business in 2003, he spared no time and worked hard to move this business to a more central location at 600 Wilson Avenue in order to attract more customers and provide exceptional value added service to more fans of the VW brand.
Offering real value to the customer ultimately means demonstrating that the business cares about the customer, their time, and of course, their Volkswagen. Beyond a company culture that stresses the importance of accountability, Yorkdale Volkswagen offers numerous amenities and was the first VW dealership to offer services like a convenient direct drive-through service bay, free rapid wheel alignment check, an in-house cafe, and a complementary car wash. Standard guest services like free coffee and high speed WiFi in the dealership’s comfortable waiting areas, as well as customer pick-up and drop-off in the shuttle round out the customer experience at Yorkdale Volkswagen.
“When I purchased this dealership, I saw that it was performing poorly mainly because of its location, and Volkswagen was going through a growth spurt and plan, so I saw the opportunity in this brand. This store was available, and I saw that moving the store would result in significant sales increase, and at the same time, I had a suitable property available for purchase,” says Leeder.
A Chartered Accountant by profession, Leeder has been in the car business for over 25 years, so his experience brought the Yorkdale dealership where it is today – constantly growing through service improvement and exceptional teamwork that keeps bringing back each customer.
Leeder was right on the money looking at this dealership as an undervalued asset, and between 2006 and 2012 his car sales increased by over 300 per cent, which translates into 800 new cars in 2012, ranking as No. 3 in Toronto, and also, No. 2 nationally for sales of Certified Pre-Owned VW. “We always had a dedicated sales staff and manager focused on used cars, and we have doubled this by 2012; I see a continuous growth here,” says Leeder.
Leeder enjoys working in the automotive business as this business always changes and always provides new business opportunities. There are four main components to run a successful car dealership: service, parts, new, and used vehicle sales. According to Leeder, attaining success with a dealership requires finding balance, and proper attention to each vertical.
Leeder works to develop a team that always focuses on exceptional customer and employee satisfaction. While the product is important, having the right people with the right mindset is critical to any business, and Leeder strives for his 60 employees to be satisfied in their workplace so they can provide exceptional service to the customers in return. “We hire people strategically; skills and work-related tasks can be taught and monitored, but the right culture fit can’t be trained. Communication is important, as well as monitoring and training,” says Leeder. A continuous feedback-loop between all team members is the No. 1 attribution to our success.
The VW Way
VW saw the North American market as a poor performer for this global automotive behemoth, so in 2008 the corporation announced the push to become the No. 1 manufacturer in North America by 2018. The Volkswagen product line has seen an incredible surge in the number of models available in its showrooms.
The poor performance was due to the fact that the vehicles themselves were imported from Europe and therefore could not effectively compete in terms of pricing, so VW built production lines in Mexico and the U.S. to build more affordable cars.
“Today we have more models and designs with higher model proliferation; we have far more competitive pricing; the quality standards are higher than they have ever been and are getting better still. In the next five years there will be several new models coming in. From this I would estimate that the VW growth in the market could be very significant, anywhere from 30 to 50 per cent for Volkswagen Canada over the next five years. When you take that down to us, I would expect our sales to be up by at least 50 per cent or more. We just have the benefit of having a manufacturer who is very driven by volume and sales,” elucidated Leeder.
While Leeder doesn’t know exactly what the new models will be, the public knowledge is that there will be an additional mid-size SUV to complement the Touareg and Tiguan, and more models will offer the VW renowned turbo engine, and push towards more models and options for the customers.
“Volkswagen is trying to develop its core four models – Jetta, Golf, Tiguan and Passat. Jetta is by far the bestseller, and the other three are close runners-up.
There are many VW models in Europe and around the world that we don’t get here, and I would like to see some of those models coming in. That’s our wish list, but we will have to wait and see.”
Yorkdale Volkswagen will continue to realize its potential in the Toronto car market, and, looking at the VW strategy for North America, Leeder wants to press on to match the brand’s planned growth of 50 per cent in the next five years. Beyond the Yorkdale dealership, the company also purchased the Volkswagen dealership in Orangeville, and the company continues to look for additional acquisitions.
“As we get closer to capacity at his location, so we are at the point where expanding through acquisition is the only way to grow. We have the people and we see significant growth in the next five years, but the growth will be consistent with our philosophy and business model. We will continue to expand within our expertise in the Volkswagen brand, work together as a team, and always provide exceptional service. We are always moving forward in terms of service and business growth, but we will not expose ourselves to an unnecessary business risk of focusing on things outside our expertise,” concluded Leeder.