We realized early on that we were the brand and we really got ourselves out there.
Often our greatest motivation is the distance we’ve already travelled. The team at Ride Time share what motivates them.
Doug and Andrew MacIver, are the owners of Winnipeg’s Ride Time (formerly CanadaWide Vehicle Finance Ltd.) a used car dealership with two locations. You might know them better known as the stars of BNN’s Bargain Brothers. The two are third generation car dealers; grandfather Jack owned Winnipeg’s Midway Chrysler, while father Doug Sr., owned Toronto’s Willowdale Dodge and York Volkswagen (sold in the mid-2000s). We spoke to Doug Jr. about the beginnings of their family-owned business and what the future holds for Ride Time.
So, tell us, how did Ride Time start?
My dad was a big thinker and he loved marketing, and at a franchise store they put handcuffs on you for what you can and cannot do. That was always a frustration of my dad’s and he envisioned our used car dealership. Our business model has morphed several times from when he started it with my brother in 2007, but we continue to grow year-over-year. My father unfortunately passed a few years ago and left us at the helm. We’ve taken it in a whole other direction, but the car business in our blood for sure.
What makes your business different? What has helped it thrive?
My dad had seen a need, definitely in the subprime market, of handling customers with respect. Basically treating all customers, the same, no matter who they were or what their credit history was like. It was true customer relations—treating them honestly and fairly. We were early adopters of the cradle-to-grave business model where that the salesperson you start with at the beginning is the salesperson you end with. That person is also the finance manager to a degree. You really just deal with one person. The back-and-forth with traditional dealerships? We try to eliminate that, and have since day one in 2007. My brother and are young guys, so we’re really excited about new and different technologies that we’ve embraced—from the way we merchandise, to the way we market our vehicles.
How does your dealership challenge the industry, and your competitors?
In 2011, we made the decision to go 100 percent digital, no print, as far as marketing. We combined that with a heavy television presence. We have some unique and quirky commercials and we realized early on, especially after my dad passed away, that we were the brand and we really got ourselves out there. We learned that by adding our faces on television, people were able to connect with our personalities and it really supercharged what we were doing digitally. Anything we do outside of that we get a real big boost where we don’t have to do as much. An example is currently that we’re doing a very limited run on radio. One radio spot, per day, on the city’s most popular sports station. It’s amazing the number of people who contact us and say “I heard you on the radio.” Years ago when we were on radio we would have spent way more money. We run five days in a row on the morning show, and the next week we run five days in a row on the afternoon show. We cut a new ad every two weeks. Just like our television spots, they’re not even really ads. It’s just us talking about what’s going on. It’s been remarkable for the little investment. It’s definitely getting noticed. It speaks to our brand.
What challenges does your business face? How do you overcome them?
Finding capital was a struggle in the beginning. As we became more successful, those avenues opened up. The other struggle is finding people. Because our business model is so different from a traditional store, people with previous automotive experience are a detriment. We have tried a couple times over the years, where now that we’re known and we’re selling cars, that people have thought “these guys are digitally-inclined and I would like to work for them,” and we have brought people in from other stores and it’s just too different. The automotive business is an industry where most people say they got into it to do something else then they end up in the business for 20 years because they loved it. The hook is getting someone in the business. The biggest problem for us, as a used car dealer as opposed to a franchise store, is that we are looked at as an outcast or a shady operator. We need our relationships, with banks and different vendors, and it takes so much time to build everyone’s trust, that one wrong hire could mess up a lot of that. Hiring is something we take very seriously. We’ve worked really hard to get where we’re at and we take our reputation seriously.
Learning from your past, what is the future for your business?
We’re in the middle of $5 million project with a new building. We’ve invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in a new website platform that we’re in the middle of developing ourselves in conjunction with a state-of-the-art turntable photo studio and just the way we are going to merchandise our inventory. We’ve bet heavily on this area of our business. For us, it’s always about staying ahead of the completion. We don’t have the same budgets of places we are competing against. Everyone says their market is most competitive car market, but I would argue Winnipeg’s is the most competitive one in Canada. We have to be smarter to compete and I think we’ve done a pretty good job.