Ontario dealer Drew Tilson ventures into Quebec

Exactly 20 years after he entered the dealership ownership business by purchasing a store in Barrie, then expanding his holdings in Ontario, Drew Tilson has ventured into Quebec with some recent acquisitions.

The 48-year-old, whose first purchase was Barrie Nissan in 2002, subsequently acquired Ridgehill Ford in 2010 which rebranded recently as Cambridge Ford, then expanded his holdings, buying Porsche Centre Quebec, Audi Ste-Foy and Audi Levis.

The stores were previously owned by Marie-Josée Bégin.

“My pursuit of automotive retail has never been about the number of stores that I have,” he said. “It’s never been about ego or the specific size of the organization. It’s really about identifying opportunities consistent with what I think my organization is built to take advantage of. Contained markets are opportunities that I prefer to focus on and with brands in communities and areas I think are congruent with one another.”

He said he had looked at a number of acquisitions over the years and had come close. Through a third party he was contacted a year ago by agent Manon Messier of Dealer Solutions Mergers and Acquisitions to see if he would be interested in purchasing some luxury brands in Quebec.

“The opportunity to own the two contiguous point Audi dealerships obviously was compelling,” said Tilson. “It’s a great culture, great community, great people and certainly fantastic opportunities to have these brands in this market. It’s consistent with what my philosophy is with my organization and the types of places we want to be and do business with from a community standpoint.”

Tilson sold his interest in Georgian BMW, in which he had become a partner a few years ago, when he acquired the Quebec dealerships.

Tilson does not speak French and considered several candidates to oversee the stores and decided on Gilbert Paquette, who was General Manager of Georgian BMW in which Tilson was a partner, is a Francophone native and has family in Quebec City, as Vice President and Director of Operations.

Tilson said he may pursue buying additional dealerships, but maintained he has been disciplined with his approach and has been happy with the brands he represents.

“I am very proud of each one of them and (buying more stores) is something to consider, but I would be very selective about growth and brand,” he said.

He and his wife, Gloria, are also involved in real estate development.

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