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Revved up to be selling Mitsubishi vehicles on the North Shore
Simon Tai never really planned to get into the car business.
“It was a coincidence,” he admits.
An immigrant from Hong Kong, he arrived in B.C. in the early 1980s to go to school. Originally he dreamed about becoming an engineer but instead ended up in the sciences, majoring in astronomy at UBC.
Then came a chance opportunity that he should probably be thanking his lucky stars for.
A friend asked him if he’d like a summertime job selling cars.
He figured ‘OK,’ that sounds like a good summer job. “I always loved cars.”
“That was August 1, 1987,” he recalls sharply.
It was the Mazda dealership at Kingsway and 12th. By the end of the month Tai was the top salesman; it was the beginning of a very successful career.
Later, the owner moved Tai to his nearby Toyota dealership, where he’d become the top salesman regionally and nationally, selling 300-350 new cars a year. And when you add the used cars, his number was up to 400 or more.
“I’m not kidding,” he says with a chuckle.
The natural salesman later became a GM at the dealership and then, in 1992, he set out on his own, leasing a location on Marine Drive in North Van in December and securing a Suzuki franchise.
Today, two decades later, Tai is still at the same location serving North Shore clients — many of whom have been with him since the beginning.
“We’ve been serving the North Shore for over 20 years.”
Of course, starting a dealership from scratch wasn’t easy. But he built a business based on trust. Soon came referrals and repeat customers.
“I worked seven days a week. I was younger then I had all kinds of energy,” he says.
Some of his longtime customers have purchased as many as 10 cars from him, he says proudly. “Friends and family buying cars. Honesty is the best way to do business.”
And he never gets tired of meeting new people.
“I get to meet a lot of different people every day. Every customer has a different story. I enjoy dealing with people.”
Today Tai wears several different hats: dealer principal, GM, sales manager and occasionally floor salesman.
He has 12 employees, many long term — like his service manager, who has been with him since day one.
After Suzuki’s recent decision to pull out of Canada, Tai officially became a Mitsubishi dealership in July.
He didn’t need to be sold on the brand. “Nice quality. Made in Japan, very good warranty — best warranty in the world,” he says noting the one exception is the RVR crossover which is built in the U.S.
He’s excited about the 2014 Mirage, Mitsubishi’s all-new three-cylinder, five-door hatchback, which he should have by the end of the month.
“The most fuel-efficient gas engine in Canada,” he says.
He’s also waiting for the arrival of his own Mitsubishi, the Lancer Evolution, or Evo. “That is a beautiful car,” he says.