By David MacDonald W e have very loyal customers across the Maritimes,” Tyler said in response to my first question in a humble and pensive tone. “We would not succeed without our customers.” I had asked Tyler about Centennial Auto Group’s 39-year run – which just doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of slowing down – and his lack of pretense was admirable. “In day-to- day operations, our staff are the ones who really make it happen. We have an incredible team across our group – I really feel that we have the best in the industry. In turn, this reflects on our customer base. They’re knowl- edgeable and they trust us and I think that says a lot. Our true passion for the industry is another reason for our success. Every one of our managing partners has a huge passion for what we do. We don’t go to work because we have to; we genuinely love what we do every day. It makes a huge difference.” “I think it’s a winning combo. In just a few short years we have become the largest automotive group ever on PEI.” What they do is well-known to generations of people on “The Island” – Prince Edward Island – as well as in New Brunswick – where Centennial operates two businesses – and Nova Scotia. Centennial Auto Group has the largest selection of pre- owned vehicles on Prince Edward Island and operates: Cen- tennial Honda of Summerside; Centennial Nissan of Char- lottetown; Centennial Mazda of Charlottetown; Centennial Kia of Summerside; Centennial Certified of Charlottetown; and Centennial Nissan of Summerside. “We also have the PractiCar rental chain and two Centenni- al CARSTAR locations on PEI in Summerside and Charlotte- town as well as two in New Brunswick: Centennial CARSTAR
of Moncton and Hamilton’s CARSTAR in Dieppe,” Tyler explained.
The Centennial CARSTAR chain offers general car repair, windshield repair and replacement, and collision services.
The Centennial name is also synonymous with motorsports on PEI. The Kembers entered the recreational industry in Summerside in 1995 as an Arctic Cat snowmobile dealer and have since made serious tracks in the red soil of The Island. Centennial Auto, Sport and Tire in Charlottetown and Sum- merside carry the full-line of Honda toys for land and sea – and more. “In 2005, thanks largely to the growth of our repair centre, we were able to acquire the Suzuki motorcycle brand, the Yamaha motorcycle brand, and a whole lot more ATV brands and power equipment names. And in 2011, we expanded into the Charlottetown market with the addition of Yamaha and Honda motorcycles and ATV franchises,” Tyler said. It was all started innocently enough, Tyler said, by his father Ira Kember in 1976 with a single used car dealership and repair shop in the small Island community of Enmore, thir- ty-five kilometres west of Summerside. “For a while there, it was just my Dad fixing-up smashed cars and selling used ones. And then in 1979, his brother Ezra Kember joined the team, they purchased a building in Summerside and shortly thereafter acquired the Volkswa- gen franchise,” Tyler told me with subdued pride at first and a collected matter-of- factness second. “By 1982 they changed to a Datsun and Nissan dealer. They had really grown the business quickly and were able to build a separate collision centre next door, where they also opened a Rent-a- Wreck rental store. They continued with year-over- year growth, with the addition of a second col- lision centre in Charlottetown in 1987, and a service repair centre in Summerside in 1998. In 1999 when they saw the opportunity for Honda, they resigned the Nissan dealer- ship, renovated the facility, and were the first Honda dealer
SPOTLIGHT ON BUSINESS MAGAZINE • JULY 2017
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