Back to building businesses and community… in Las Vegas

October 31, 2022
Editor, Canadian auto dealer magazine

Successful Western Canadian Dealer Summit heralds the return of in-person networking and learning

It was a genial and relaxed group of auto dealers and industry professionals that gathered at the luxe and expansive Wynn Las Vegas resort on the 22nd to the 24th of September. Everyone at the Western Canadian Dealer Summit seemed positive about the business, and was looking forward to meeting new connections and networking with old friends and colleagues. 

“It has been so great to get back to Vegas after four years away,” said Gerald Wood, President, Motor Dealers Association of Alberta. “The support from our sponsors and members from all three provinces has delivered an event that included some outstanding presenters on important topics to our industry today, as well as the opportunity to reconnect with our industry peers in a relaxed and fun environment.”  

One of the attendees garnered some extra well-deserved attention: 93-year-old Jimmy Pattison was present for all of the three days, taking in the presentations and posing for pictures with people delighted to meet the billionaire and automotive legend. Pattison has deep ties to the Western Canadian automotive community, having been born in Saskatchewan and building his business from a base of auto dealerships in BC.

For someone who could easily justify taking some time to relax from running a business and philanthropic empire, Pattison was extraordinarily generous with his time. He was often seen chatting with admirers, and told a rapt audience about some of his many memorable experiences over his long career, in an intimate conversation with New Car Dealers Association of BC’s CEO Blair Qualey and Chair Anthony Lunelli at the Summit Gala at the end of the conference.

“The past few years have proven to be a difficult period for our sector which relies very much on sharing ideas, keeping up with the latest trends and innovation, and networking,” said Qualey. “The opportunity to come together for the Western Dealer Summit was a very special occasion for members and sponsors across BC, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. In addition to an amazing array of speakers and information sharing, we were honoured with a closing fireside chat involving automotive icon, Mr. Jim Pattison, who had some very personal and inspiring words for everyone in attendance.”

The event was a success on many levels, with dealers getting to socialize with their colleagues, and sit in informative learning sessions where attendees learned about the latest in automotive innovations to drive their business forward, from industry experts. Topics ranged from succession planning, to dealership security, to franchise law, to fixed ops and parts, to how to market your business onTikTok, and how to use Think with Google.

Information technology innovations are always a key point of interest for dealers. “The message was driven home that digital technology and digital interactions with customers is the way forward. Dealers need to understand all the “big data” that they have access to, and use it strategically,” said Roberto Rossini, Manager Regional Sales for Cox Automotive Canada. “It was great to attend an industry event after a few years of these being cancelled due to COVID, and to reconnect with our customers and industry partners face-to-face,” said Scotiabank’s Bramin Karsanji, Director and Market Lead Automotive Finance, Western Canada. “We found the event well attended with an excellent venue.” 

 Other sponsors were just as happy with the event and the experience. “This year’s Summit was a great opportunity to get back out there, shake hands with the dealers, and stay current on the ever-evolving changes the industry is currently facing,” said Ryan Zemp, Serti’s Western Regional Sales Manager. “The association did a great job of coordinating a series of workshops and events to provide an overall experience which was both informative and enjoyable. Topgolf did not disappoint, and of course you can’t beat The Wynn as a venue. Looking forward to Banff in 2023!”

 Social events were a real hit; Thursday evening’s Welcome Reception was a convivial introduction to the Summit, serving cocktails and refreshments courtesy of First Canadian Bank and General Bank of Canada. The night continued, as waiting limousines ferried guests to Harrah’s, where SiriusXM sponsored an evening of drinks and singing along with Dueling Pianos. On Friday evening after the seminars, Kijiji Autos sponsored a fun evening of drinks, appetizers and golf at the aforementioned Topgolf facility. “Kijiji Autos was honoured to host dealers and guests at Topgolf as part of the Western Dealer Conference,” said Kijiji’s Kristin Macintosh, Business Operations Manager, Autos. “It was a great venue with spectacular views. Fun was had by everyone, and we are already looking forward to next year in Banff and thinking of ways to one-up ourselves.” 

Dealers from across Alberta and Saskatchewan were well represented, with a few attendees also from British Columbia. “The Western Dealers Summit is a key gathering place for suppliers, sponsors and associate members of the Western Canada dealer associations to connect with dealership owners and senior management,” said Joshua Peters, Manager of Member Services at the NCDA. “We witnessed first-hand the value of conversation, forming new relationships and strengthening existing ones. On a lighter note, we want to extend a shout-out to Kijiji Autos for hosting Topgolf for attendees, and SiriusXM for a memorable evening at Dueling Pianos. We encourage all BC dealers and suppliers to consider attending the 2023 Summit.”

The provincial associations benefitted from connecting to their members in person. “The Western Canadian Dealer Summit provided an exceptional opportunity to meet and be re-acquainted with key contacts across our sector,” said NCDA’s Eric Nichol, who is Executive Director of the Vancouver International Auto Show. “Featured speakers and information sessions provided valuable insight. As an example, ‘Think with Google’ and Mathew Growden, focused on digital marketing, trends, analytics, and transition to GA4, each of which provided huge takeaways to better equip dealers and staff to consider how they might stickhandle the changing automotive landscape. The session helped cement the Vancouver Auto Show’s digital strategy for consumer engagement as we prepare to return in 2023.”

“Events like the Western Canadian Dealers Summit are genuinely invaluable, the opportunity to build, foster, and in some cases, rekindle genuine business relationships within this amazing automotive industry,” said Saskatchewan Auto Dealer Association CEO, Larry Heggs. “One of my goals as Executive Director of SADA is to bring membership value through education and networking opportunities, and the Western Canadian Dealers most certainly accomplished that.”

 All in all, the experience of gathering in Las Vegas for professional networking and learning was described as universally positive, by everyone who spoke with Canadian auto dealer. “The road ahead will be challenging, but this event, and its future versions, will serve to put forth a united front that ensures long-term industry strength,” said Wood. Attendees are already looking forward to next year’s Summit in Banff, knowing whatever the auto market and economic situation, there’s strength in knowledge and community.

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