Larry Lantz wants to fight for the little guy and the big guy.
The industry veteran and owner of the successful Hanover Honda started his one-year term as president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers’ Association (TADA) this spring and he has a lot he wants to talk about.
Lantz, a single point owner/operator, takes over at a time of rapid industry consolidation amongst the new-car ranks. He said given the climate, it is important to hear from dealers like him who know all too well about the perils and pleasures of running a single dealership.
His entry into automotive retail started in his early twenties with a sales position in the Kitchener/Waterloo area. He moved into management in 1979 and held various positions at several prominent Ontario dealerships.
Dealer principal was added to the resume in 2007 when he purchased a Honda dealership in Hanover, Ont.
His process for revitalizing the store started with focusing on what he calls the “4Gs” – genuine quality customer service, great employees, golden rule (treat others as you would like to be treated) and giving back.
That philosophy continues to pay dividends today.
Shortly after assuming the mantle as president of the TADA, Lantz chatted with Canadian AutoWorld about his new role with the provincial association and what he hopes to accomplish over the next year.
Canadian AutoWorld: Are there two or three main objectives you have over the next year as president of the TADA?
Larry Lantz: I have been the Canadian single dealer representative of a CADA Task Force called the National Working Group, now named the Inter-Association Affairs Group, for the last four years or so. Its purpose is to improve the relationship between our federal and provincial associations and collaborate to provide more value to our dealers.
Everyone has been working very hard on this initiative and I am pleased to say it has been a resounding success.
I want to continue to be part of that solution and further strengthen the relationships. We have made amazing strides with this committee and I want to continue with the process. When we speak on a national level, we will be heard more clearly if it is one voice.
I want to continue to try to improve the value for dealers in being members of their provincial and federal associations.
As a member of the TADA Education Committee, I also want to continue to improve on our offerings to raise the awareness of the opportunities available in the automotive industry.
It’s not just sales and service and we need to keep sending the message to colleges and secondary schools. Through our engagement and awareness program, I want to continue to help anyone considering a new career understand that our industry is a viable one and one that has multiple disciplines within.
Our education program is a critical, long-term initiative for our industry and I plan to give it my full support.
The TADA president gets an amazing soapbox for the length of the term – a weekly column in the Toronto Star. What are some of the topics you want to explore?
I honestly felt that no one would want to hear what I had to say. I have been blown away from the messages, letters and comments that were sent to me after the first column.
In the coming weeks and months, I’d like to showcase some of the lessor known things including OMVIC, the Motor Vehicle Dealers’ Compensation Fund in Ontario, the Georgian College Auto Show and more. And I certainly would like to comment on our amazing Canadian International AutoShow, held in Toronto in February. I am open to any column ideas but am not making any guarantees.
You wrote in your first piece for the Star that you wanted to bring a “small market perspective to the larger dealer community.” What are some of the issues unique to dealers in smaller communities?
Many times, products and services in smaller markets can be unattainable in terms of cost.
Some companies have a one-price policy for their products and that can be challenging for smaller market, lower-volume dealers who don’t have the same buying power as they do in major markets.
My town, for example, has a population base of 7,500 versus larger markets that can be in the hundreds of thousands.
Smaller markets can also experience surcharges for extra delivery costs because of our distance from the warehouse. Many smaller market Northern Ontario dealers also have weather issues that can be unique to their location.
When a snowstorm hits at my dealership, and they do regularly in the winter, customers cancel their appointments and we spend days cleaning up the lot. Keeping our facility presentable takes lots of time and adds another element of challenge to meet our monthly sales objectives.
I still had a large pile of snow taking up parking spaces at my dealership as of late April; many dealers along the Highway 401 corridor would not have experienced this.
I’m not sure how these things can be fixed or changed, but all these are contributing factors to some of the differences for operating successfully in a smaller market.
How do you think your experience as a dealer in a smaller market helps you in this role with the TADA?
Smaller market dealers and staff have to multi-task as we can’t hire someone for every single position. That multi-tasking gives us a lot of experience we would never get at a larger dealership. It is both good and bad. I can also relate better to all dealers as I have many years of experience in different management positions at larger Ontario dealerships, too.
We’ve seen a lot of action from the TADA in recent years related to provincial legislation. How important is it for Ontario’s dealers to have a strong voice in Ottawa?
It is critical to have a strong voice in Ottawa to make sure our legislators hear our perspective. Both TADA and CADA are constantly working for us, both publicly and behind the scenes to make sure our voice is heard.”