My name is Michael Eatson, and I am the new president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association (TADA), the largest provincial dealers’ association in Canada. It is an honour and a privilege to provide leadership to our 1,100 member dealers across Ontario. One of my goals as president is to represent our association and to promote the career and education opportunities that exist in our industry.
My TADA involvement was inspired by my father, who was past president of the former Ontario Automobile Dealers Association (OADA). After my initial involvement with that association, I was fortunate to be involved with the merger of the TADA and the OADA.
First off, I would like to acknowledge the many past presidents of the TADA who have served before me. All of these past presidents contributed their time and expertise to our industry and served our association with distinction – I consider these leaders my mentors.
I have been involved in the retail automobile industry since the late 1970s. During my high school and university years, I worked at our family Volkswagen dealership in all departments. From 1983 to 1987, I attended University of Guelph, playing varsity soccer and graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Prior to graduating from university, I took a year off to work as a teaching and coaching assistant at a private school. That experience taught me important lessons about communication and an understanding of how we all learn differently. This was a valuable experience in the running of my dealership.
After graduation, I moved into a full-time position at the dealership, working in the service, parts and sales departments. At the time, we also owned a Volvo and Mazda dealership and I eventually cut my teeth as a manager of these combined stores.
Eventually, we made a decision to focus completely on the Volkswagen brand and I moved into the position of sales manager at our Volkswagen store. I’ve been fortunate to be a member of the Volkswagens Dealer Marketing Association as well as its dealer council, representing Ontario dealers outside the Greater Toronto Area.
In 2009, after 40 years in downtown Peterborough, Peterborough Volkswagen moved into a new and larger facility in the north end of the city. With this move, Peterborough Volkswagen has been able to better serve the transportation needs of its growing customer base.
In October 2019, our dealership celebrated its 50th anniversary. My parents opened Peterborough Volkswagen in September 1969, and the journey from then until now has been extraordinary. To have my parents on hand to participate in that milestone was a proud moment for our family and staff.
Peterborough Volkswagen’s 50th Anniversary event included an Oktoberfest theme, in keeping with the dealership’s ‘VolkFest in the Kawarthas’ event that it has hosted in recent years, which celebrates the heritage of the Volkswagen brand.
From a young age, my parents instilled in me a philosophy of giving back. I have sat on the boards of local organizations and coached amateur sports teams. Our dealership contributes to many important causes, including Community Care, Hospice Peterborough and the YWCA.
The entire auto industry – from design and manufacturing to retailing and marketing – is evolving at a faster rate than at any time in history and, over the next 12 months, I look forward to discussing these changes and how they are impacting our lives.
Although the focus of this column will be dealership and consumer issues, I will occasionally venture outside the showroom and service department to discuss broader automotive themes and where our industry is going. I welcome your comments and suggestions. If you have an idea for a topic, please send it along.
The outgoing TADA president, Cliff Lafreniere, will now serve as president of the 2022 Canadian International AutoShow. Good luck, Cliff!
Michael Eatson is president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association and is president of Peterborough Volkswagen. This column represents the views and values of the TADA. Write to email@example.com or go to tada.ca. For information about automotive trends and careers, visit carsandjobs.com.