100 year-old car salesperson: “Retiring is the last thing on my mind”

Gerry Kowalsky is the portrait of a veteran car salesperson, having recently turned 100 and also celebrating his 65th year in the business.

The century-old native of the Township of Waterloo is Canada’s oldest actively-involved car salesperson, working for Olympic Honda in Guelph for the past 36 years. To mark his birthday, the dealership held a party for him, and the attendees included the Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie and John Carmichael, Chief Executive Officer of the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council.

Since the outbreak of COVID, Kowalsky has been working primarily from home, but said he still drops by the dealership from time to time. He sold a car as recently as last week and has an assistant to help with the paperwork.

“When you’re in the car business it sort of gets in your blood,” he told Canadian auto dealer. “Retiring is the last thing on my mind.”

When asked about cutting back on work, he said: “I was never a fireball. I always took my time, so it was no problem to slow down. I can’t be doing it on a daily basis anymore, but there’s people always calling me.”

Kowalsky began selling cars in 1935 after previously working for 10 years selling materials for the building industry, which he felt was declining. He began working at Kaye Ford.

He said the secret to his longevity has been building a clientele, both corporately and individually, and gaining their trust.

“I went out of my way to help the person that I sold a car to,” he said. “I always looked after them. The most lucrative years were probably the 60s.”

He devised a strategy to target salespeople in the area, which was booming with businesses. He told his clients if they limited their usage to between 7,000-10,000 miles (11,265-13,600 kilometres) per year, he’d put them into a new one and sell the used cars to wholesalers.

“They were crying for used cars and the only mode of getting cars was the auction,” he said. “I had them sold and pre-sold. Once you build a clientele, word gets out about the deals you’re making. It got to the point where I’d just come in at about 10:30 in the morning and take orders. I used to have people phoning all the time.”

He said he never approached the job with the intent of making a score.

“If you want to stay in business, it’s not the big deal, it’s how you can cater to the people and keep them happy,” he said. “Once you get the trust of people, you are home free. They just pick up the phone and order.”

Related Articles
Share via
Copy link