Big bash in Oshawa for ninety-nine-year-old dealership

Ontario Motor Sales is celebrating its flagship store’s 99th anniversary with a big bash as part of a leadup to turning 100 next May. Based in Oshawa, it is one of the oldest General Motors dealerships in Canada. The site of the original store is the home for the Canadian Automotive Museum, where the kickoff takes place.

The company began in 1923 with Norvall Willson, followed by his son, Stan. His son, Glenn, took over. Glenn’s son, Tony, has been the Dealer Principal for 10 years.

“There’s not too many businesses that are 100 years old and still in the same family,” said Willson. “We’re trying to get as many people as possible throughout the dealership involved at different levels. A lot of employees have been there for much of this time, believe it or not, for all four generations. How do we highlight those people?”

Willson said the one idea that has been concurrent throughout the four generations is looking after customers and taking care of employees. He said the rest takes care of itself.

Tony Willson

“Obviously, there’s lots of challenges, but we’re in the community and we’re being seen as philanthropic,” he said. One of the employees is Gloria Judd, a Fleet Manager who began with Norvall and who was actively involved until COVID led to her retirement.

“She delivered something like 55,000 vehicles over her time,” said Tony Willson. “We want Gloria to help us tell that story. We’ve got a couple other people like that who have been able to sustain a very successful career in this business with ours for a long time. We’ve had a lot of retirements over COVID and we haven’t been able to celebrate them properly. We need to figure out a time to highlight all these people, bring them all back together once it’s safe to do so and give them the proper recognition they deserve.”

Under Tony Willson’s leadership, Ontario Motor Sales has expanded with Hyundai and Kia stores near Oshawa in Clarington, and a Harley-Davidson store in Durham. Collectively there are more than 250 employees. Willson said the company will be adding a new dealership in the next two weeks.

“I think it’s right for the business,” he said. “Given some of the capital investments needed with electrification, the demands of our changing customers and the experiences they are going to demand going forward, they are going to need several of these brands.”

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