Much has changed since Watkin Motors first started selling vehicles a century ago, but a focus on family, the community and customer service hasn’t.
The longest established Ford dealership in Canada was started by Joe Watkin in 1915 in downtown Vernon.
He had three staff members and sold cars, trucks and tractors, and was known to take livestock as a down payment.
In 1962, after working for Vernon Garage since the age of 14, Jack and his wife Fern Blankley sold everything they could to purchase the business after the death of Joe Watkin. Making the decision to keep the dealership’s name, cemented Watkin Motors as the longest established Ford dealership in Canada.
Three generations of Blankleys have continued to make the Ford dealership a success, with Jack and Fern’s son Don (Budd) joining the business in 1966, followed by his brother Bruce in 1976. Their sons, Ross Blankley (son of Budd) and Scott Blankley (son of Bruce) are now partners in the business.
All of the Blankleys involved in Watkin Motors learned all the different aspects of the dealership from an early age.
“My first job was cleaning cars when I was 16 years-old, and then I worked my way through the different departments,” said Ross, Watkin Motors partner and dealer principal.
Retaining long-term employees is a point of pride for the family.
One such employee is Annette Howkins, who is embarking on her 33rd year. She started washing cars and is now a staple in the service department.
“Here, you are working for a family and you’re part of their family,” said Howkins.
Another key to their success is their commitment to customer service.
“Customer satisfaction is very important to us and that is proven by our numerous President’s Awards over the years. The President’s award is given to four dealerships across Canada who, through customer feedback, are determined to be the best of the best,” said Ross.
“To do that we have to have an entire organization that believes that each customer is a customer for life.”
Watkin Motors has been through many changes over 100 years including two different locations, three buildings and have grown to a staff of 52 employees.
“The population growth has been one of the biggest changes,” said Bruce, Watkin Motors partner. “Our business and staff have grown substantially.”
“One thing that hasn’t changed is that the core of the North Okanagan has to do with natural resources either from a business or recreational standpoint; that dictates that the majority of our business revolves around trucks, whether it’s pickups, SUV, or vans; that combined with the fact that Ford Motor Company has retained leadership in the truck industry has been instrumental in us being successful,” said Bruce.
Watkin Motors is being recognized as it celebrates 100 years with a visit from Ford Canada CEO Dianne Craig.
“I’m proud to be a part of a successful third generation family business and also proud of our relationship with Ford Motor Company over the last 100 years,” said Scott, Watkin Motors Partner.