Go Auto is not just another dealership group. The brand rivals stereotypical views of the industry while providing outstanding value for customers and boundless opportunity for staff – all while supporting the communities that have embraced the Canadian-wide brand. Go Auto has 48 franchised dealerships from Vancouver to the Greater Toronto Area, retailing 19 new vehicle brands along with selling more used cars than anyone else in Canada. The brand continues to grow rapidly with up to five acquisitions a year and expansion locations for it’s used car and RV centres. It’s a quintessential success story, and it all started right here in Edmonton.
With so many competing dealerships, how and why does Go Auto continue to grow at this pace?
“With Go Auto’s size and proven operational model, we are able to provide customers with a superior buying experience and cost saving benefits in a way that is difficult for individual smaller dealership groups to do,” says Michael Hladun, senior vice president.
“Our Go Card Loyalty program is unparalleled!” Hladun continues. “You can earn cash for referrals for new cars. The person buying a car gets $500 off and the customer that referred them gets $500 on their card to apply to parts, service, etc. In addition to referral bonuses, Go Card holders receive additional discounts on parts and services and cash back (to the card) on applicable purchases. There are no restrictions or limits and every customer can have one. Over the course of driving a car for six years you could apply all your points to a brand new car and get a wonderful discount.”
However, the benefits of Go Auto shopping start long before the purchase. Go Auto knows the way people buy cars is changing. Instead of taking a Saturday to come to the lot and test drive several cars, most search online, compare models, read reviews, then come to the dealership with a photo of the car they want. The shopping journey predominantly starts online and with many customers now figuring out all their options on the internet. Always responsive to consumer demand, Go Auto has invested heavily into its online experience so shoppers can quickly and easily view and compare 11,000 cars in one place – and more.
“Our 24/7 concierge service helps you find financing, provides advice, helps determine the best model for you, etc.,” says Hladun. “Go Auto provides it all – vehicles, financing, support and insurance (Go Insurance).”
It would be impossible to deliver such outstanding products and services without a dedicated team, and Go Auto goes the extra mile to ensure all employees have access to plenty of training, and opportunities for career development and advancement.
Personally leading the charge is Jared Priestner, principal, and other executives who spend countless hours developing and presenting courses for Go University. The Go University training facility will see over 30 weeks of training schedules each year.
“Priestner will come in and put on weeks of training sessions with topics ranging from how to be a good communicator to how to improve your engagement with customers. He develops courses based on his experience, applying new leadership development methods to the Go Auto environment and bringing additional teaching from his access to leading industry experts. To see that effort and conviction from the guy that owns the place, it creates a very exciting environment to work in, and builds a culture of conviction to learn and improve” says Hladun.
Duncan Cochrane, vice president of marketing, is also very impressed with the way management supports the team.
“There are no shortage of stories of young men and women starting as lot attendants and with hard work and dedication being promoted to a sales role, then sales manager, and beyond,” says Cochrane. “I like the unlimited opportunity here for our people. The focus is on the team and customer experience, not just on shareholder returns.”
Cochrane continues, “We know there is an age old stigma about ‘car salespeople,’ but when I joined as a new employee, the first position I saw put on a pedestal was the Go Auto salesperson. In Priestner’s view, they are the lifeblood of the company. They get our customers into vehicles that fit their family and lifestyle and find a way for them to afford it. For a lot of people, a vehicle is the second largest purchase of their life; the sales team guides them on that journey. Our CEO knows that we all have important jobs here at Go Auto and no one is above or beneath the other. There is no stigma here. All positions are held in very high regard.”
Go Auto is very well known for its network of dealerships. It is far less known for its community work, which is not surprising since the mandate from leadership is that Go Auto gives back because it’s the right thing to do, not to drive recognition and sales.
From a five-year, $3 million commitment to the Kids with Cancer Society to personally helping to make and deliver the 88,000+ meals necessary for Fuel for School, Go Auto is involved in many charitable initiatives.
“Employees are encouraged to participate in giving back too,” Cochrane adds. “During Go Auto’s Random Acts of Kindness campaign, each staff member was given cash to use in any way they saw fit as long as it was a charitable pursuit. Some compiled the money to make a greater impact, for example, filling backpacks with necessities for the homeless while others choose to take a more personal path and give money to people that they witnessed struggling in just day-to-day living. In this campaign, Go Auto provided $1 million in cash to employees for Random Acts of Kindness.”
Hladun notes, “Having worked in other large public and private companies, I quite often see that giving back is employee driven. Here, while the employees are robustly involved in the execution of initiatives, giving back is driven by the ownership. A lot of it is anonymous charitable works that are done simply because it’s the right thing to do. It’s not about publicity. They tell us to not promote or leverage the giving for business reasons. When we do promote it, it is to generate interest, get people to participate and to raise even more money for a good cause.”
The focus on employee engagement, customer satisfaction and community giving has not gone unnoticed. Last year Go Auto was recognized with a Canada’s Most Admired™ Corporate Cultures of 2018 – Enterprise award, and was also recognized by Deloitte as one of Canada’s Best Managed Companies. In 2019 Go Auto president, Jason Smith, was awarded the Business in Edmonton Leaders Award for his contributions to Go Auto’s success and the Edmonton community.
Go Auto is a local success story because the brand focuses first on people and communities and then on profits. Management knows that it takes happy customers, a fully engaged and supported team, and a strong community for business to thrive. All stakeholders need to win.
“If you are shopping for a new car, go to a Go dealership and a non-Go dealership and compare the experience,” Hladun invites.
“You may get the same vehicle for a similar price elsewhere, but you’ll see how the experience is completely different,” Cochrane agrees.
Hladun and Cochrane, on behalf of Go Auto, say a very heartfelt thank you to the staff for their hard work, to Mike and Jared Priestner and the leadership team for creating a wonderful work environment full of opportunities, to the communities that have embraced the brand and to the customers that are proud to be Go Auto drivers.
“Going forward we will continue to live our core values of being a brand that is trustworthy, happy to help, and a team player,” concludes Hladun. Those are not just vacuous words. They are operational and foundational. Those words drive our corporate culture.”
“Go Auto’s growth sees us exploring new markets across the country,” adds Cochrane. “We will continue to grow the business and grow our employees, helping all to reach their full potential.”
Experience Go Auto’s difference by visiting
www.goauto.ca online, @goauto.ca on Facebook, and @goauto on Instagram.