MARCH 2017


By David MacDonald A quick trip to, a third-party consumer review platform, shows just how much iCar cus- tomers have taken to John’s business model. “We ask our clients after a sale to rate us on their experience – and we encourage them to be as honest and open as they like,” Amanda said. “We’re almost at a five-star rating – it’s currently at 4.8 – with over 300 reviews in total.”

“We had a customer in mid-February who bought his



“But I can say with absolute sincerity, John’s vision is one where everything is on the table.”

If you’ve ever driven through Thunder Bay, Ontario, taken the James Street Bridge and followed the old City Road to Mission Bay, you know that auto sports are a cultural event in Canada’s Gateway to the West. Amanda Ingberg, one of the sales representatives I spoke with at iCar on Memorial Avenue in Thunder Bay’s thriving commercial district, told me it’s a bigger part to the community than most people know. “Over in Mission Bay, it’s ice racing in the winter and autocross in the summer – but that’s not all. Between the Jeep clubs, the hunters, the fishers, and the off-roaders there’s a steady flow of auto sports enthusiasts coming onto our lot for anything from pre-owned vehicles to aftermarket parts to custom work,” she explained. “And that’s just one part of the market here. Our General Manager John Murphy had a vision for unequalled transparency in a business that sells pre-owned vehicles and the people in this community and the whole Thunder Bay District have come to embrace his vision.”



the iCar vision is one where everything is on the table. Numbers, options, history – we give you the full scoop.”

Every iCar pre-owned vehicle purchase includes a 100-point mechanical inspection, iCar quality vehicle reconditioning, CarProof report, guaranteed credit, a one-year CAA mem- bership, and a 90-day free preview of Sirius Satellite Radio. “We’re always looking for ways to make the iCar experi- ence standout,” Amanda said. “This is just as true online as it is here at the dealership. Our website is designed to be user-friendly. The layout is about accessibility more than anything else. People want to see exactly what they’re looking for right away, which is why I think our PureCars Value Report is so amazing. Basically, it’s a complete vehicle overview of the vehicle you’re considering, includ- ing price, body style and colour, mileage, engine and transmission type, fuel economy, and complete history otherwise. You just click the PureCars link below the picture of the vehicle you’re considering. I email or text these links to all my on-site customers so they can ask informed questions.” Part of the problem with the traditional used-car lot, Derek believes, is the condescension. “Contrary to how some dealerships think and operate, nobody wants to spend three or four hours buying a vehicle,” Derek laughed. “Our informal research shows that an hour or an hour and a half is what most consumers expect and want. So we streamline the process with step-by- step protocols for all of our sales representatives, including providing the PureCars link, and we know our customers appreciate being empowered like this. It shouldn’t be an experience that makes you feel small.” If it seems to you like Derek is a lot more empathetic than the average pre-owned car sales rep, you’re right. It was the fact that he didn’t have to check his compassion at the door that made him a permanent part of the iCar team. “You only have to hear John speak to know he’s a genuine guy,” he explained. “We have customers come in all the time – some repeat shoppers, some first-timers – and they all tell us what a positive atmosphere we have going on, what great energy we have. Well, that’s for two reasons: First, John hires proactive and social people like himself; second, it’s hard not be positive with a boss like him. One of the first days I came here to work, I was shadowing everyone. An older woman came in who had bought a pre-owned vehicle the year before and she was having some car troubles. It turned out that the fuel pump had failed and a repair in the order of $700 was needed. Now, this was well over our grace period for warranty and reclaims. But John overheard the story and recognized the woman. He knew she was raising four of her grand- kids and that the likelihood of her being able to continue making payments and fix that repair was slim to none. Typ- ically, most dealerships would play the ‘Too bad, so sad’

seventh vehicle from us,” added Derek Pugh, who’s been with iCar as a sales representative for four years. “This is someone we all know by name. In fact, when he comes in he usually gets a round of applause. So many of our customers have been dealing with us since we opened our doors six years ago – we call them the iCar family. And some of them come from a lot farther away than the outskirts of town. Some of our most loyal customers come from Reserves up-to 16 hours away and they tell me again and again that they travel all this way for the consistency. I know so many customers by name because they appreci- ate transparency and consistency.” “People want to see exactly what they’re looking for right away, which is why I think our PureCars Value Report is so amazing.” Derek is what you’d call a self-aware guy. “There’s a lot of stigma around this industry,” he said. “The used car salesman is obviously a well-known cliché. They’re crooks; they pull the old bait and switch; it’s all a cat and mouse game to them. Like everyone else, I know all the lines people run through their minds when they hear you sell pre-owned vehicles. But I can say with absolute sincerity,

card but John looked at her like part of the iCar family. He knew her family bought several pre-owned vehicles from us and he went the extra mile. He took care of the repairs himself and topped-off her gas tank. That made me want to work here so much more.” “Our General Manager John Murphy had a vision for unequalled transparency.” Amanda explained that not being tied-down by profit motive is beneficial, in the long run, to both the customer and the dealership. “We focus on volume, service and sales with much smaller margins thanother dealerships. We don’t have that back-and- forth with our customers. There’s no need to script an elaborate price negotiation in your head on your way down to our lot. We’re a one-price dealership and that price is the lowest price. We compare our prices with dealerships all across Canada so that our customers know they’re getting the most for their dollar. Other deal- erships don’t realize or care that people are willing to travel pretty far to get the best deal; they’d rather sell fewer cars with higher margins. That’s just not who we are.” “We currently sell anywhere between 80 and 100 pre- owned vehicles each and every month,” she continued. “One hundred sales is that invisible mark we strive for each month. With numbers like these, it’s safe to say that we dominate the pre-owned market in Northwest- ern Ontario. I think one of our strongest angles is going after the new car market. A lot of our inventory is 2015s, 2016s, or 2017s with low kilometers. For many practical car buyers, these are basically brand new vehicles. We can optimally save these customers 10 to $15,000.” iCar’s inventory is impressive. At any given time, the half- acre lot and 1,300 square feet dealership on Memorial Avenue is a temporary home to three hundred vehicles. Truck enthusiasts – and auto sports enthusiasts in general – have another reason to stop by and pay John and his team a visit: custom work. “We’ve now been doing custom work for about a year,” Derek explained. “The iCar Customs team will build a vehicle to yours specifications. We’ve installed lift kits, fender exit exhausts, fender flares, large and small wheel combinations, you name it. We also offer financing on custom work. While we don’t have an in-house shop right now, we’re more than happy to engage to local business community here in Thunder Bay and use a third-party shop. Superior Auto Body and Rust Check have been fantastic partners, just to mention two.” Back in February, iCar was the lead sponsor for an event in support of the Arthritis Society called Jailhouse Rock. “It was a live Monopoly game where we actually put up a 2014 Fiat 500 for auction. We helped raise a lot of money for a good cause and it was a really fun night – every-

811 CENTRAL AVENUE • 346-0405

body won! We’re really looking to do more like this. I’ll be representing iCar at an upcoming benefit at the end of March for first responders, which aims to raise awareness of PTSD in this occupation.”

iCar won the 2016 Consumer Satisfaction Award from

many thanks to our advertisers


985 Memorial Ave, Thunder Bay, ON P7B 4A1, Canada 807.768.4227 866.899.6837 Toll Free

as spotlighted in the MARCH 2017 issue of SPOTLIGHT ON BUSINESS MAGAZINE

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