A classic story of success in the automotive industry
At new car dealerships across Ontario, thousands of men and women are enjoying tremendous success in their chosen careers and making a positive difference in their communities.
What many of these men and women have in common is that they didn’t have a clear career plan when they first entered the business. In other words, they stumbled upon their professions almost by accident and wound up excelling at them beyond their wildest dreams.
Robert Morrison is a classic example. His story illustrates how an entrylevel position in the retail auto industry can - with effort and dedication - transform into a calling and a career.
By his own admission, Robert sailed through high school as an average student. He was not overly engaged with his studies and didn’t know what he wanted to do after he graduated.
In 1995, acting on a whim, Robert answered a classified ad for a detailer at a local car dealership. He had always liked cars and figured the job would be fun.
To his surprise, Robert found detailing more difficult than he imagined, but that only motivated him to work harder. His willingness to learn and his passion for the work allowed him to become a highly skilled detailer.
That hard work and passion caught the eye of the service manager, who offered to sponsor Robert if he wanted to become a licensed automobile technician.
Keenly interested, Robert enrolled in the Automotive Service Technician
program at Centennial College, where he excelled at the in-class and apprenticeship components of the program, learning about electrical, braking and computer systems.
Four-and-a-half years later, Robert earned his auto technician licence and eventually moved up the ranks to master technician. Throughout these years, working at a Volvo dealership, Robert demonstrated tremendous proficiency in the areas of diagnosis, organization, problem-solving and relationship building.
Six months after his career as an automotive technician began, Robert was approached by Centennial College to teach its night release level 3 apprentice program. He embraced this new challenge and taught the course for 11 years.
In 2013, Robert was invited onto Centennial College’s Program Advisory committee to assist in evaluating the effectiveness of its Automotive Service Technician Co-op Apprenticeship (Partnered with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) and its Automotive Service Technician Co-op Diploma Apprenticeship (partnered with Trillium Automobile Dealers Association), and to identify future trends and changes in the industry to ensure program relevancy.
Within a few years, Robert was promoted to assistant service manager and later to service manager at Volvo, and he was invited onto a Dealer Council for North America for the brand that he represented.
In 2013, Robert joined Pfaff Volkswagen and, two years later, he was promoted to fixed operations manager. In 2017, he was again promoted - this time to regional service manager for Pfaff Motors Inc. (a dealer group consisting of 11 stores and a collision repair facility).
Somewhere in his years of working and teaching, Robert also found time to write technical articles for automotive magazines, and he co-founded an auto magazine.
The past 20 years have been extremely fulfilling for Robert. In high school, he never imagined the career path that unfolded for him. But, with a combination of curiosity, dedication and perseverance, Robert established three careers for himself: as an automotive technician (later manager); as a part-time educator and adviser; and as a writer.
How many other Robert Morrisons are in high school today, contemplating their futures, unaware of the incredible opportunities that the retail automobile industry offers?
Our industry has undergone seismic changes over the past two decades. According to Robert, the main shift is “brains now beats brawn.”
If you are undecided about your future, or are looking to change careers, take some time to check out the diverse career opportunities that exist in our industry.
For information about automotive education and industry trends, visit carsandjobs.com.
This column represents the views and values of the TADA. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org or go to tada.ca.
Larry Lantz is president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association and is a new-car dealer in Hanover, ON.
Robert Morrison has enjoyed a continuously rising career path in the retail automotive industry, starting in 1995, as a detailer at a local dealership.