JULY 2017


If you’ve spent time as a visitor in all three of Canada’s Maritime Provinces – New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island – you undoubtedly had memorable experiences with Atlantic Canadian English. Maybe you were invited to “dinner,” which is a term used to describe lunch in the Maritimes, and you showed up at “supper,” which is the evening meal. Maybe your host told you not to worry about it and that he “likes the cut of your jib,” a jib being the forward sail of a boat or ship that cuts the wind and a way of saying that he gets you’re explanation and he’s more than okay with it. Maybe he told you that the next stop in your three province tour was just “downstream” or “up the road” and it turned out to be a day’s drive. That’s because for Maritimers, every community feels like it’s the one next door and that everyone is connected in some way or another – which is, more often than not, the case on these shores. And that’s why it wasn’t a surprise to me – a Maritimer myself – when Tyler Kember, part of the second generation of the family-based management team of six at Centennial Auto Group on Prince Edward Island, told me that his family’s customers come from all over the Maritimes.


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.

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-

“We also have the PractiCar rental chain and two Centenni- al CARSTAR locations on PEI in Summerside and Charlotte-

ship, renovated the facility, and were the first Honda dealer in Atlantic Canada with the new Honda image.  In June 2015, the Centennial Auto Group took over Clarke Motors in Charlottetown, rebranding it Centennial Nissan of Char- lottetown. In 2016, they expanded into Moncton, purchas- ing another collision center, and took ownership of Centen- nial Mazda of Charlottetown in June of last year. That same month, we opened a state of the art motorcycle facility on Sherwood Road, also adding a quality pre-owned vehicle center named Centennial Certified of Charlottetown. Just this year in May, the Centennial Auto Group opened Cen- tennial Nissan of Summerside on Pope Road and we added Centennial Kia in July of 2017.” When Tyler heard what I thought was a subdued and out of earshot “wow” come from me over the phone that morning in early July, hewas againquick to sing thepraises of hiswork family. “It’s our employees – the team – that makes this all happen. When it comes to our staff, we are like one big family; some of the greatest friendships I have are with our teammembers. I often tell people that respect goes both ways.  If I can’t show a team member utmost respect, then I personally do not deserve their respect.  Our values are very family-ori- ented, and we want to make sure that our team members have values that align with ours.  We make sure that mutual respect is present between our teams.  I think as far as the ownership being local, this brings a lot of security and pride to the team.  We have over 100 employees in our group.” The entire six-Kember management team – Ira, Ezra, Tim, David, Robert, and Tyler – has adoptedwhat they call theCENT (Caring, Ethical, Never-ending improvement, Teamwork) approach. “It’s pretty simple,” Tyler explained. “Our core values revolve around the acronym CENT. CARING means that we will treat customers and fellow team mates the way we want to be treated. ETHICAL means we will not do anything in business today that will potentially cost us loyalty tomorrow. NEVER-ENDING IMPROVEMENT means we will take every opportunity to learn and grow, and be the best we can be. AndTEAMWORKmeans thatwewill provideconsistent support to our customers and teammates, while working together and having fun. I think it’s a winning combo. In just a few short years we have become the largest automotive group ever on PEI.” “The internet has obviously created a huge impact in every industry and the pre-owned vehicle and motor- sports worlds are definitely not an exception.  We’re always looking for ways to make our main sites – Centennialauto-,, and – user-friendly and visually pleasing – our websites have to be nothing but the best.  We also believe that we have to be very strong in social media because the industry is con- stantly changing – which is honestly one of the things that make it so fun.” Consistent support requires a different touch these days, Tyler explained.

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

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