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New name, new management, new attitude at BMW Sarnia

Mon, 05/27/2019 - 15:35 -- Chris Cooke
Dan & John Whitton

It took a year to do the deal.

“I could have written a book on the deal and a book on the closing of the deal” says Dan Whitton.

Whitton along with his brother John bought Sarnia Fine Cars and Sarnia Volkswagen from Joe Andali and his family last month. The two dealerships had been in the Andali family for years but Dan believes Joe’s emotional attachment made the deal tougher to complete.

The Whittons who own Progressive Auto Sales have a farm background that goes back 25 years. They are known in the low margin auto industry for their ability “to be thrifty”.

The two bothers attribute their parents for their thrifty ways. “On the farm, we were given food and clothing and were taught how to save a dollar” says John.

Progressive, which began selling farm equipment has evolved over 25 years. From a small lot at East and Ontario Street the brothers sold a few vehicles. Ten years ago, they expanded to Exmouth and Lambton Mall Road where the business took off.

Today Progressive sells a 1000 vehicles retail and 6000 to 7000 wholesale and owns a “Ford store” in nearby Wallaceburg.

Dan has always been an entrepreneur while John is a self - taught mechanic. “Buying and selling cars is a commodity” says Dan “and it’s important to remember that. This is a low margin, high volume business”.

Their interest in Sarnia Fine Cars which they have renamed BMW Sarnia began years ago. “We’d pass by here” says Dan “and ask what would we improve?”

As it turns out what they would improve is sales. The two dealerships generated $18 million last year.

The two brothers have self-generated targets of increasing sales by about a third over the next couple of years. And they intent to do it be reducing prices and increasing volume.

“The days of hitting a home run on cars is over and has been for years” says John.

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