Meet John Stewart, new president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association
My name is John Stewart and I am the new president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association (TADA), which represents 1,100 auto dealers in Ontario.
I consider it a great honor to serve my fellow dealers in this capacity. Over the next year, I’ll be sharing my views in this space, and I look forward to covering many automotive industry topics.
Cars have advanced by leaps and bounds since my grandfather started working in a garage in Norwood, Ontario in 1916. Back then, a new Ford sold for $495, the use of horsepower and cows for hauling was the norm, gas was 22 cents a gallon, and our phone number was 27.
My father, John James (Jack) Stewart, joined the company in 1936 and together with my grandfather they sold the Dodge DeSoto. In 1948, he acquired a franchise of Ferguson tractors, which later became Massey Ferguson. In 1966 my brother, Ross, and I joined forces with our father, and it became JJ Stewart Motors Ltd. Sadly, Ross passed away in 1985 and my dad passed away in 2016. (He was 102 and still came to the daily dealership.)
While in elementary and high school in Norwood, I worked part-time at the garage, learning to pump gas, sand cars for the body shop, and wash vehicles. I then apprenticed in Toronto to get my funeral director’s license, but decided it wasn’t for me. I went back to Norwood and worked at the dealership, first in service and then in sales. While working in sales, I traveled the roads looking for customers. Quite different from the way business is done today.
In 1983 I bought Campbellford Chrysler and Jeep Eagle in Peterborough and then combined the two with Don Earle Plymouth to form Peterborough Chrysler.
I have two sons, Dave and Mark, who have been my business partners since 1996, and we have continued to grow the business. We acquired the Mitsubishi franchise in Peterborough in 2003 and the Mazda franchise in 2018.
Throughout my family’s decades-long career in automotive retailing, we have won numerous industry awards, including the prestigious Time Magazine Quality Dealer Award in 1984, as well as numerous Chrysler Canada accolades. I served on the Chrysler Dealer Council and the Dealer Advertising Association several times for 33 years.
We have been members of the Ontario Automobile Dealer Association and TADA for several years, and I was the vice-president when the two associations merged in 2012. I was also president of our local Lions club (I been a member for 52 years) and president of Norwood Minor Sports.
Over the years we have contributed to hospitals in Campbellford and Peterborough, and in 2018 we donated my parents’ house for use as Norwood Hospice, a venture which is still ongoing. We also sponsored local minor sports, various service clubs and churches, and were a major contributor to a fundraiser for the construction of the new Asphodel-Norwood Community Center and ball diamond.
All of our dealerships also participate in cooperative programs offered by various schools, as well as driving lessons, when available.
One of JJ Stewart Motors’ greatest assets are our employees, many of whom have been with us for many years. Without them, we would not have been able to serve our customers well. Many of our customers are second and third generation, and their loyalty and support are greatly appreciated.
Over the past three years, our industry has faced its share of challenges. I would like to thank the last two presidents of TADA, Cliff Lafrenière and Michael Eatson. Both have done an exceptional job helping our association navigate the choppy waters of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Looking ahead, the Canadian International Auto Show plans to return as an in-person event in February 2023, after a two-year absence due to the pandemic. I will write more about this closer to that date.
Until next month, drive carefully.