Car dealership goes out

David Johnston, president of Bob Johnston Chevrolet

David Johnston, president of Bob Johnston Chevrolet.

Bob Johnston Chevrolet is getting out of the new car business.

A victim of declining sales, the dealership on Kingston Road, west of Galloway Road, has been open since 1973.

It will continue as a used car lot and service centre.

“I think there’s a degree of sadness to this,” says dealership president David Johnston, the son of the original president, Bob Johnston. “A business such as ours has become very much a family.”

His dealership’s 59 employees were told of Johnston’s decision in early January and the boss says he has been trying find work for them at other dealerships.

“The support from the staff has been amazing,” Johnston says. “People have been very understanding and very supportive.”

During a visit last Saturday, the staff still smiled and made jokes regularly, but no customers were seen on the dealership floor.

Ending new car sales was based on a number of factors, Johnston says.

“I’m not sure you could say that there’s a straw that broke the camel’s back,” Johnston says. “I think it’s just a gradual deterioration of the volume of sales in Toronto.”

Bob Johnston Chevrolet is a General Motors dealership, and that car maker recently announced it had lost US $38 billion in 2007.

Some local businesses were sad to hear the news. John Flanjak of Top Ten Auto Sales, a used car dealership, says he has done a great deal of business with the dealership over the past 10 years.

“It has nothing to do with the management, the ownership, or anything,” Flanjak says. “It’s just the market situation.”

Timothy Saleh, of Joe’s Auto Repairs, just east of the dealership says staying in any section of the automotive business is tough.

“Everybody was shocked,” says Saleh. “If they’re going out, what about the little guys?”

Johnston says brand loyalty to GM simply is not what it used to be. Toronto has a large immigrant population and those from overseas are less likely to recognize the General Motors name.