Fin­ish this sen­tence for us: “En­trepreneurs need a lot more…” Chris­tian Chia

Con­fi­dence to be­come big­ger, bet­ter and more suc­cess­ful be­fore they tran­si­tion out of their busi­ness. Too many en­trepreneurs exit their busi­nesses too early. They short­change them­selves and their or­ga­ni­za­tions. We see that a lot in B.C.

BC Business Magazine - - Entrepreneur Of The Year 2018 - —J.W.


Bells have been tolling for car sales of late; even Gen­eral Mo­tors Co.’s former vice-chair, Bob Lutz, has warned that the rise of au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles spells the end of the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try as we know it. But Chris­tian Chia, pres­i­dent and CEO of Open­road Auto Group, isn’t putting on the brakes; the com­pany he formed in 2000 is go­ing pedal to the me­tal in pur­suit of op­por­tu­ni­ties that he in­sists are emerg­ing from the chang­ing land­scape.

Case in point: lux­ury ve­hi­cles, which the Am­s­ter­damborn, Jakarta-raised Chia is con­vinced are the fu­ture of his busi­ness. “Au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles are go­ing to com­pletely turn the in­dus­try up­side down, and it’s go­ing to be a boon to lux­ury cars,” he as­serts, a trace of a Dutch ac­cent in­flect­ing his speech. “An au­ton­o­mous car will be­come an ex­ten­sion of your home—some­thing that you re­ally want to so­cial­ize in, shop in, work in. And that’s why we made a con­certed ef­fort to fo­cus on the lux­ury sec­tor.”

In 2014, Rich­mond-based Open­road pur­chased the deal­er­ship rights to the BMW Store, the Rolls-royce Mo­tor Cars store and Mini Yale­town, all in Van­cou­ver. A year later came the Lan­g­ley Auto Col­lec­tion, Canada’s first lux­ury auto mall, where mon­eyed shop­pers can roam Audi, BMW, In­fin­ity, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mini and Porsche show­rooms. Chia is now plan­ning an ex­pan­sion into the U.S., where he aims to open a su­per­car des­ti­na­tion cen­tre in Bellevue, Wash­ing­ton, show­cas­ing Bent­ley, Lam­borgh­ini, Mclaren and Rolls-royce.

He’s also ex­plor­ing other av­enues for Open­road, which over the past two decades has grown into the province’s largest auto re­tailer, with 23 deal­er­ships and three col­li­sion cen­tres. This fis­cal year, the com­pany is ex­pect­ing about $1.3 bil­lion in rev­enue from new and pre-owned car sales, as well as ser­vice and re­pair or­ders—up from last year’s $1.15 bil­lion. “Gen Y, Gen Z, they don’t nec­es­sar­ily view car own­er­ship as a goal,” Chia ac­knowl­edges. Still, he says, car- and ride-shar­ing com­pa­nies need to be main­tained and man­aged. “Could Open­road be one of the fleet man­age­ment com­pa­nies for these firms that are go­ing to emerge?” he asks.

In­stead of in­vest­ing in “bricks and mor­tar,” Chia en­vi­sions a fu­ture “in mo­bil­ity ser­vices, in fleet man­age­ment, in tech­nol­ogy, in au­ton­o­mous, in car- and ride-shar­ing.” For­get the doom­say­ers: “It’s ac­tu­ally go­ing to be a golden era for mo­bil­ity and the auto in­dus­try,” he says.

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