Montreal-area dealer plays a role in small town rejuvenation


Lawrence Papoff

LACHUTE, QUE. – Dealers Peter and Philip McLean are confident that getting involved in local activities and a no- offer-is-a-bad-offer approach to sales will turn an underachieving Ford store into a pillar of their Quebec community.

The brothers, co-owners of Circuit Ford Lincoln in Montreal, bought Alliance Ford de Lachute and renamed it Lachute Ford. Even before they had hoisted their banner atop the store, they got active locally, helping sponsor the Lachute Rodeo in August – a month before the deal closed.

The McLean family has been in the Ford family for over 40 years.

“We are getting involved in the community and looking after customers more aggressively than in the past,” Peter McLean, Circuit president, said.

When it comes to selling cars, McLean said the brothers urge local buyers to shop where they live.

“Buying local is essential!” they said. And it won’t be expensive. They vow never to lose a deal on price.

“If you lose a deal because you are a bit too greedy, you lose a lot more than you gain – the referral business, the service.

“Lachute is a big hockey town, so when these guys are in the locker room they talk about their new truck. If they say they went to another dealer because it’s too expensive here, it spreads and that’s what happened in the past.”

An Opportunity to Grow
Lachute is located an 80-minute drive east of Ottawa and a 60-minute drive north west of Montreal.

The distance from his Montreal-area home to Lachute makes it easy for McLean, who will be more of a presence at the store, to commute.

He said the brothers wanted to expand and there was a great business case for expanding to Lachute.

“It was an opportunity to grow without going too big,” he said.

Sales under the old management were about 100 new a year and 60 used. McLean says they’re on pace to more than double yearly overall sales with a goal of upping new sales to 250 or 300 and doubling used.

McLean is confident they can hit the targets.

“There’s a lot of good word of mouth going around town. We are seeing people who haven’t come in a long time. They’d come in and try to get a deal and the previous management would hold their price,” he said.

Montreal Canadians’ star Artturi Lehkonen is the store’s spokesperson. But the store has a home-grown celebrity of its own in general manager Jean-Sébastien Gillet, who has become a star on the store’s Facebook page.

Gillet started his online career doing F-150 walkarounds. Now, he’s the face of the store on Facebook.

He wears sunglasses when he talks about deals so blazing hot, so bright, buyers need sunglasses when they set foot in the store. Now, customers get a pair of sunglasses with each car they buy.

“In a town of 12,000 people we get 40,000 people watching his videos,” McLean explained.

The store itself has a six-car showroom. Since Lachute is a rural community, the bulk of the sales are pickups. So, there will always be two on display in the showroom.

It boasts a 15-bay service department ensuring it has enough capacity to service all the cars and trucks they are expecting to sell.

Since service business is strong, they’ve hired an extra mechanic to help cope with the growth.

Lachute has seen some tough times, too. Factories in the area have shuttered in recent years, but there’s a growing optimism that things are changing for the better. McLean points to a shopping plaza going up near the dealership and a private school with its own golf course to attract foreign students.
All of that activity translates into jobs.

“Right now, we are going back to a boom,” McLean said.