Southside Nissan handed off to Dilawri in poignant ceremony


Gerry Frechette

VANCOUVER, B.C. – The sale of a long-time single-owner store to a big dealership group is a common occurrence in Canada these days. People get older, it’s time to retire, and in some cases, the property is worth so much that it makes sense to get out just for the land value.

Such was the case with Vancouver’s Southside Nissan, as it was recently sold to the country’s largest dealership group, the Dilawri Automotive Group.

Frank Affettuso, who has been sole owner of Southside since 1980 and was a partner when it opened in 1972, had to be convinced that it was the right thing to do. He still opened the doors most days and put the coffee on. The store was his life and the employees his family.

Nissan’s director of dealer network development, Vincent Boerhof, said at the turnover ceremony he had had a number of conversations with Affettuso about where automotive retail is headed.

“He was very happy to be a Nissan dealer for so long, and wanted to continue. But we talked a bit about how the industry is changing and how the demands on an independent entrepreneur have become stronger, and what would happen to this dealership in the future,” Boerhof explained.

“We got to the moment when Frank said, OK, I am happy to make this decision after a long career, and it is time to relax a little bit and enjoy life away from business. Frank’s concern was, how will this Nissan dealer continue? I think Frank has worked through that now, and is happy with the solution we have here today, the continuation with the Dilawri Group.”

The official transfer date was July 11, a significant one for the outgoing owner as that day also marked his 90th birthday.

On July 12, he handed the keys to Ajay Dilawri in a ceremony at the store on SW Marine Dr. in Vancouver. Southside#2

With all his employees in attendance, he told the crowd exactly what their hard work had meant to him.

“This is a very difficult day for me. If it wasn’t for all of you, I wouldn’t be here today. I want to thank each and every one of you personally.”

There was no shortage of tears in the room.

“Ajay is tough, but I think I like him. I haven’t heard a bad word about the Dilawri Group, so I’m sure you are in good hands. If he doesn’t look after you, I’ll be back to kick his ass!” the feisty Affettuso said.

“It’s been a great ride and I just hope that you guys have the pleasures that I have had over the years. I will come back to see you and I hope you all stay here with them.”

As Dilawri took control of the group’s 61st dealership, he paid tribute to Affettuso with professionalism and class.

“I know a lot of you are sad to say goodbye to Frank. We’d like to congratulate him for 46 years in the auto industry. Frank, we wish you all the best. I hope you come back to visit often, and that we will make you proud as we live up to the example you have set, and we will continue to build on your legacy of excellence.”