With an emphasis on creating comforts, the newest Endras addition is a glass-enclosed beauty.
Not that long ago, the Durham Region of Ontario was General Motors’ country, with the company’s Oshawa plant a prominent fixture and most automotive dealerships in the area devoted to it and the two other domestic brands. These days, there’s a growing presence for premium vehicles, exotics and imports.
Just south of Hwy. 401 in Ajax, Ontario the latest glittering evidence of the area’s evolutions sparkles, quite literally, from the new 73,000-square-foot dealership Lexus of Lakeridge.
The new building is composed of mostly glass, giving sales staff the opportunity to show up to 35 vehicles to best advantage in natural light; the entire showroom holds up to 120. The facility is state-of-the-art from the lighting, heating and cooling systems to the spectacular Lexus Jewel Box 80 feet above the ground, visible to the many thousands who travel this path on their daily commutes.
Every ramp and surface area boasts radiant heat, and advanced wireless technology notifies staff the moment a guest arrives. The service facilities include 15 service bays and nine vehicle drive-throughs, while a three-bay delivery centre sits on the upper level, and an up-to-the-minute detail shop awaits within.
Once inside, “guests” (Lexus parlance for customers) can keep an eye on their vehicles on the TV screens, or relax and enjoy a snack or full, made-to-order entrée complimentary to guests in the 90-seat café, which boasts its own on-site chef.
Lexus of Lakeridge is a new crown jewel for Lakeridge Auto Gallery, whose opening on Achilles Road under the umbrella of parent company Endras Automotive Group was part of a huge expansion at the beginning of the year that also saw the openings of a Volvo Cars and a Jaguar/Land Rover dealership on the street all within 30 days last winter. The first dealerships in the group, Endras BMW and Mini Durham, opened just 10 years ago; Endras Infiniti opened three years ago this summer.
Founding partner Chris Endras began to see the potential in the region about a dozen years ago, says Kyle Verge, Director of Marketing for the group. Since the beginning, his plan has been to purchase land in the neighbourhood and expand into a substantial automotive retailing presence; the group now employs over 320 people, compared to the hundred or so employed by the BMW and Mini franchises.
Future expansion plans will include two more dealerships on the street, as well as the opening of an innovative, independent, expansive auto body facility. Last among their current plans is to move the group’s Bayly Street Village Chrysler store onto Achilles as well.
“There’s nothing of that scale and size, especially in the premium market,” Verge says of the repair facility. “It will be an authorized body shop for all our brands, as well as consumer-accessible. It will be a separate entity, and we’ll welcome competitive, same-brand dealerships in this end of the city to use it, too. The goal is for it to be an authorized corporate retailer for auto body work.”
On target for success
Lexus of Lakeridge is proving successful in its first few months in business, with all its corporate sales and service targets achieved, he says. “Preowned cars can take a little longer to ramp up,” he notes, “but we’re very happy. The facility itself is unbelievable. Most people haven’t seen a dealership like this.” The dealership is the first purpose-built, ground-up store in the province to embrace Lexus’s new retail experience strategy and esthetic design.
The lightning speed of their expansion put the Endras team in something of a Catch 22, Verge says. As a result, the team threw every ounce of energy into their new projects 12 hours a day, seven days a week for months.
“We had to get these dealerships open using our existing staff,” he says. “We had no idea how much extra work they’d be willing to do, but it’s been amazing. You can’t hire more people without opening and you can’t open without hiring. We didn’t know how we would open all these brand new places at exactly the same time, we just knew we couldn’t have staff sitting around waiting for customers.”
The group is now big enough to have recently hired an HR manager, and is in the process of fine-tuning benefits and incentives for staff, including a special holiday thank-you. He says he expects their numbers to soon reach 500. “We want to make sure we’re paying attention,” he says.
Since opening, attracting customers through advertising and brand awareness campaigns has been a focus as well. A comprehensive campaign that included direct mail, radio, social media, television and more is bearing fruit, but it’s an ongoing process, and Verge says he expects the challenges to continue as the group continues its rapid expansion.
The next time you’re travelling the highway east of the Greater Toronto Area, be sure to look south to spot Durham Region’s newest jewel, Lexus of Lakeridge.