‘Long road’ to dealership grand opening


OAKVILLE, ONT. – Southern Ontario’s Budds’ Group of Companies has capped off more than three years of wheeling and dealing and nearly two years of construction with the grand opening of the group’s full line General Motors dealership.

The party, held in late April in Oakville, roughly 40 minutes west of Toronto, officially pulled the wraps off the new Budds’ Chevrolet Cadillac Buick GMC.

“It was a long road to get here,” co-owner Chris Budd said. “This grand opening is a culmination of a three and a half year plan.”

Budd, 58, is co-owner of Budds’ Group of Companies along with his brothers Darryl, 61, and Terry, 56. The Oakville-based dealer group runs seven stores representing 11 brands including BMW, Mazda, Subaru, Jaguar and Land Rover.

In an interview following the opening gala, Budd said the road to that night started during GM’s restructuring woes in 2008. At the time, three GM stores served Oakville: Oakville Chevrolet, Kerr Cadillac Pontiac Buick and the Budds’ Saturn store. With the loss of Saturn badge, he said he saw an opportunity to stay with the OEM by consolidating its core four brands under one roof.

With Kia installed at the former Saturn store, the Budds’ group bought the Chevrolet store in January 2010 and started the conversation with Bob Kerr about buying his Cadillac store after he had lost his high-volume Pontiac brand.

GM executives encouraged the plan, he said.

Kerr sold giving the Budds’ team a new location with the prime spot next to the Queen Elizabeth Way. All that was left, he said, was to figure out how to transition all of their GM customers under one roof.

“We decided to renovate the Cadillac store and lived in it while we did it. Despite all outward appearances throughout the construction phase,” he joked, “we remained open.”

They could have stayed in the Chevrolet facility while renovating the other store, but that entailed moving an entire group of customers to a new facility. Those customers would eventually have to move back along with the Chevrolet store’s customers once the Cadillac store was complete.

The team said it was concerned about the database and felt it should move into the long-term home and live through the construction.

“Right or wrong, we did it and made through it all, including the surprise of having to dig up the entire lot as the drainage system was 40 years old and, following renovations to the adjacent Queen Elizabeth Highway, the way run-off and drainage worked had changed.”

The store has been stretched to 55,000 square feet, typical for an A-market GM dealership. Of special note is a downstairs customer lounge, a large service reception area, a tower-like staircase at the west end of the building and an indoor vehicle delivery centre called the Budds’ Launch Pad.

Budd said they will keep an inventory of 160 to 220 units depending on time of year noting the store is designed to sell about 1,000 new and 600 used vehicles annually.

Now that the group has a keen eye on Cadillac, what about competing with their BMW store down the road?

“Every brand crosses over so there will always be some customers considering both Cadillac and BMW,” he said. “I think we have been smart about the choices we have made, though. I don’t know if we would ever actively go out and buy a Mercedes-Benz store as that is head-to-head with BMW. We’ve tired to be sensible in our demographic.”