By RON FANFAIR
While most of his family members were consumed by books and contemplating pursuing higher education, Roy Armstrong could always be found tinkering with cars. It’s no wonder that his first job in Canada – in 1974 – was in a General Motors factory assembly line. Four years later, he became a sales associate, rising to become the company’s top Canadian agent in 1987 and again in1991.
The Jamaican-born Armstrong began selling cars for Chevy Yonge in 1978 before moving four years later to Kane Chevrolet Oldsmobile which was bought out by Lou Vavaroutsos who now owns the state-of-the-art Old Mill Pontiac Buick Cadillac dealership at Jane St. and St. Clair Ave. W.
After spending 14 years at Eastside Chevrolet in Markham, Armstrong joined Old Mill in 1988. The dealership moved last November after being located at 2500 Bloor St. W. (west of Jane St.) for 63 years.
“This is the template for what all GM dealerships will look like going forward,” Armstrong disclosed while proudly surveying the spanking new facility with its 300-metre frontage, extensive parking, drive-through car wash and internet café.
These days, Armstrong is in good spirits two years after car dealerships across North America faced challenging times due to the global economic downturn. Ottawa lent billions of dollars to GM to help the company avoid bankruptcy and also save jobs.
“I had confidence in the company even though things did not look good in the summer of 2008,” said Armstrong. “Dealerships were closing and employees, many of them with significant years on the job and in mid-life, were pondering their future. I was in the same predicament like them and I was happy for the bailout. It gave us a chance and we made the most of it.”
Last April, the automaker announced it had repaid $1.4 billion in loans it received from the federal and provincial governments and $6.7 billion it had secured from the American government.
Investing almost $10 million into the new Old Mill Pontiac dealership came in the middle of the chaos in the industry. That was a huge financial risk and the company is now looking to Armstrong and its other sales associates to make the investment work.
While the senior account manager maintains he’s doing well in the business, he wouldn’t mind seeing more members of the African-Canadian community supporting him.
“Over the past years, I have given much in terms of buying tables for cultural and other community events and writing cheques for fundraisers,” said Armstrong who six years ago co-founded New Beginning Baptist Fellowship Church in Mississauga, where he wears several hats, including building committee chair, deacon, custodian and sound technician. “I also supported the Ebony Fashion show for nearly 18 years.”
The dealership is currently running an “Employee Pricing” program where anyone can walk off the street and purchase a vehicle at the same price offered to employees. This program, which began June 23, will run until August 30.
“The savings in some cases are as much as $11,500,” he said. ‘That’s huge.”
Armstrong can be reached at (416) 766-2443 Ext 404, (905) 824-1378 or at email@example.com.