It’s been five years since the Johnston Automotive Group took over Vernon Kia. In that short time, they’ve gone from a dealership gearing up to gain traction on the Swan Lake Auto Mile to one of the fastest growing Kia franchises in all of Canada.
At a company awards ceremony earlier this year in Las Vegas, Vernon Kia was named the fastest growing dealership in Western Canada, and second overall in the country. The award was based on an overall scorecard of the dealer’s sales, customer service, parts ordering and other criteria.
“Coming from a store that struggled for the first couple of years to one of the most improved or best overall in Canada, we’re quite proud,” said Lee Casperson, CFO of the Johnston Group, and manager of Vernon Kia.
“The first few years after we opened were quite tough. We’re continually improving and trying to grow the business. We’ve got the largest inventory we’ve ever had, and our service department is getting busier and busier.”
Casperson, who has been with the auto group – which also runs Vernon Dodge, Kelowna Chrysler, Kelowna BMW and Kamloops Dodge – for 12 years, said a big part of Vernon Kia’s success is derived from community partnerships and the visibility they help create.
“We’re fairly focused on that,” said Casperson. “We’re trying different things just to create chatter within the community. We still phone people and they say ‘We didn’t know there’s a Kia dealership here.’”
In the last year, they have supported a variety of events, including: 12-hour cancer relay at Polson Park; coat drive with the local fire department and Salvation Army; Sun FM food drive; Mid Summers Eve; Riot on the Roof; men’s night golf at Spallumcheen; and the Vernon Lions Club murder mystery dinner and silent auction, among others.
The other thing that has helped the dealership is the product itself. Casperson said Kia is all about value for the consumer. He adds most models receive upgrades on a three-year cycle to ensure they keep up with the latest technology and industry trends.
“The base models come well equipped – heated seats, Bluetooth,” he said. “The big thing Kia has is its dollar-for-value options are probably the best on the market.
“The five-year warranty is huge and Kia Canada promotes it well.”