If the measure of a person is the respect gained from others, Don Durst has certainly made his mark in the Canadian automotive industry.
Durst retired in July after 51 years in the auto industry, working the last 18 years with Subaru Canada, most recently as Vice President. He began his career with American Motors Corporation, then moved to Volkswagen.
He was honoured at a monthly meeting of the Global Automakers of Canada (GAC) with a plaque and it was announced the GAC has set up a bursary with his name at Georgian College’s Automotive Business School of Canada (ABSC).
It is called the Don Durst Award of Excellence. The initial commitment is for five years and will start in the fall. A first-year student will be given $3,000 and the criteria will be high academic achievement, financial need and underrepresented groups.
Durst had been a 35-year member of the GAC board, including 30 as Treasurer.
Jean Marc Leclerc, President and CEO of Honda Canada, praised Durst for his career longevity, which he said is “iconic,” and added the bursary is a testament to that.
“People who we’re trying to attract to the industry will know his name because of the bursary and will also understand his legacy,” said Leclerc in an interview with Canadian auto dealer. “I think that’s what the scholarship means in terms of bringing more diversity to our industry, which is something we’re working hard to achieve.”
Mazda Canada President/Chief Executive Officer David Klan noted Durst helped Subaru win the Canadian Automobile Dealership Association Dealer Satisfaction Index Award the last 10 years consecutively.
“The fact Don and his team have won for 10 years is unbelievable,” said Klan. “That speaks volumes of his character, personality, leadership style, the culture that he’s created and that true family relationship and deep partnership with his dealers. I don’t think that will ever be matched again.”
Leclerc also noted Durst’s role in Subaru winning the CADA DSI Awards so many times.
“I know how difficult that is, especially when your business goes through ups and downs and dealer sentiment is sometimes difficult to control, if you will, for lack of a better term,” said Leclerc. “But he was able to do that and he was the face of the dealers.”
Larry Hutchinson, President and Chief Executive Officer of Toyota Canada, described Durst as a bridge builder in the way he builds rapport with people. He also said Durst was always willing to share the knowledge he gained working with multiple OEMs in Canada and internationally.
“He’s very generous with his time and his knowledge and his friendships, he’s just a great guy,” said Hutchinson.
He added that collectively Canadian OEM leaders were happy to present Durst with a plaque and the bursary to give him the respect he deserves for commitment to the industry and GAC.
“I think it is a wonderful thing for someone who has given as much of his life to an OEM as he has to his family and everything else,” said Hutchinson.
GAC President David Adams, who was hired for his current role by Durst in 2004, credited him for Subaru’s growth and market share. He also noted Durst’s longtime involvement with Subaru.
“To be in a role like that (with one company) for that length of time is almost unheard of,” said Adams.
Durst said he was “honoured” to receive the plaque and the bursary named after him. He came into the meeting thinking he would receive a handshake and a photo of a car, which he said is typical when somebody retires from the automotive world.
“This beautiful bursary they gave me is absolutely amazing,” said Durst.
Durst will be teaching in the graduate program of the ABSC in the fall. The award had been in the works long before he decision to retire from the day-to-day automotive world.
Canadian auto dealer wishes Don a happy retirement and also recognizes his tireless work representing the industry, and in particular advocating for the ABSC.