As Dianne Craig constantly reminds her daughter, find something you love to do and you never work a day in your life.
Craig cherishes her role as president of Oakville, Ont.-based Ford Canada. She was in Vernon Tuesday to help Watkin Motors – Canada’s oldest Ford dealership – celebrate its 100th anniversary.
“When I left Oakville yesterday morning to come out here to God’s country, I told my husband I’m going to have a great time for a couple of days,” said Craig, who drives a 2015 Lincoln MKX while her husband gets behind the wheel of her favourite Ford model, a 2015 Mustang.
“This isn’t work for me. Being here to help celebrate this milestone is a really big deal.”
Craig, who grew up in Buffalo, will have been with Ford for 29 years come October.
She started with the company learning the business in a marketing, sales and service entry-level position in Memphis.
Craig was named Ford Canada president four years ago and has maintained the company’s record as the market leader for the past five years.
“I’ve had such a great career at Ford but being able to run the business in Canada has been the greatest privilege,” she said.
“We have 425 store owners across Canada. The dedication, passion and loyalty of the Ford and Lincoln dealers in Canada is really special.”
Calling the automotive industry healthy, Craig said what helps keep Ford at the top in terms of sales is its devotion to its brand, reputation and – most important – its clientele.
“Customer service is the most important element of what we do because it’s all about serving our customers and giving back to the community,” said Craig. “Our vision for Ford Canada is to be the most trusted and admired automotive brand. If we accomplish that goal, we have market leadership and we’ve proven that to be the case the last five years.”
Craig achieved a couple of firsts Wednesday.
It was her first visit to Vernon and her first 100th anniversary celebration. Anywhere.
“We have some dealers approaching 100 and I’ve been all across North America, so this is a huge milestone,” she said. “One hundred years in any business is a really long time. One hundred years in the car business is really tough.”
Founded in 1915 by Joe Watkin, the Vernon dealership has grown from a staff of three to 50 employees today, making it one of Vernon’s largest employers.
It’s welcoming family atmosphere is one of the reasons that many employees have been a part of Watkin Motors for many years.
It’s also a reason the dealership wins numerous Ford Canada President’s Awards for exceeding customer satisfaction. Watkin Motors won another President’s Award this year.
“It signifies our team’s outstanding achievements in sales and customer satisfaction,” said Ross Blankley, one of Watkin’s three partners, along with family members Bruce and Scott Blankley.
“We will continue to deliver superior customer service in the Okanagan area and provide customers with the true Ford experience.”
The Blankleys greeted hundreds of well-wishers at Tuesday’s anniversary gala.
Saturday, the dealership is hosting a special day, You can have a picture taken with a 1934 fire truck originally sold by Watkin Motors; Vernon Lions Club will serve burgers from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; a free car wash card will be given out with every test drive; and Kiss-FM Saturday Classics host Frank Martina will be on hand to announce the winner of a pair of diamond earrings for the best Watkin Motors story.
The 10 finalists’ stories were on display at the anniversary gala.