WINNIPEG, MAN. – At the end of April, after almost 40 years in auto sales, Steve Dennis drove off into the sunset for the last time.
The long-time dealer principal (in partnership with Jim Gauthier) of Waverley Chrysler Dodge Jeep in Winnipeg has chosen to leave at one of the high points of his career.
“Our store was the second-best selling Chrysler dealership on the Prairies last year and finished ninth in Canada,” he says.
Dennis actually got his feet wet selling motorcycles while still at university. After graduation he worked as a warranty clerk in the Winnipeg office for Ford of Canada.
He switched to retail sales – in management positions – in the mid-1980s with Ford dealers first in Regina and then in Winnipeg.
He spent time as the dealer principal at Valley Chev Olds in Neepawa in western Manitoba in the 1990s before returning to Winnipeg in 2000 to manage Cam Clark Ford.
In 2005, Jim Gauthier approached him to go into partnership in a Chrysler store in south Winnipeg that Gauthier had recently acquired.
“Having Jim ask me to join him in partnership at Waverley Chrysler was one of the highlights of my career,” says Dennis who is also a past president of the Manitoba Motor Dealers Association (1992-93).
“We have had a lot of success at Waverley Chrysler,” Dennis says. “Most of our staff have been with us for a long time and we have a lot of award winners, especially in our service department.”
He adds that Chrysler has made his job easier over the past five or six years with an outstanding product lineup and aggressive marketing.
Dennis says that he is looking forward to doing some traveling with his wife in retirement and enjoying summers at the lake.
“This is a true retirement,” he says, “although I will still drop in at the dealership from time to time. I expect that there will be customers who will still call to see me.”
Dennis’ successor as dealer principal is Mike Shrimpton, whose career in auto sales began 15 years ago. He joined the staff at Gauthier Chrysler Dodge Ram as used-car sales manager in 2010 after a couple of years out of the auto industry working as a territory manager for Versatile Tractors.
Gauthier Chrysler general manager Kevin Schumacher, a long time friend, recruited Shrimpton to the Gauthier Group.
He eventually became general sales manager at the east Winnipeg Chrysler store.
“Waverley Chrysler is a great store,” Shrimpton says. “I am very excited about this new opportunity. I may be able to add a few small things to build on what Steve has created here.”