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.
PRESIDENT AND CEO, O PENROAD AUTO GROUP
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.