Located in Winnipeg, Manitoba, used car dealer Ride Time provides innovative credit solutions and quality vehicles, and is committed to creating a positive experience for customers, even under the toughest circumstances.
Co-Owners Andrew and Doug MacIver – otherwise known as the ‘Brothers of Bargains’ – are the head and the heart at Ride Time, an independent dealership in Winnipeg, Manitoba. As third generation car dealers, Andrew and Doug have been around vehicle dealerships all their lives, and have leveraged technology, social media, and video content to create a brand that is recognized across North America and beyond. They were subjects of a national reality TV show called ‘Bargain Brothers’ and have both received Auto Remarketing Canada’s ‘40 Under 40’ award. The brothers spoke to us recently about growing up in a family of car dealers, the freedom gained from foregoing the franchise model to become independent, and the commitment to a customer first business that has brought Ride Time incredible international recognition.
As third generation car dealers Andrew and Doug are once had six franchise stores inside the family. Their father was particularly successful in the franchise business, at one point being the largest Chrysler dealer by volume in Canada.
“Ride Time really started back in 2007,” Andrew explains. “I started it with my dad after I graduated from Georgian College, and we really wanted to start from scratch. If we didn’t have a franchise dealer to tell us what to do, how could we recreate the business, and we’ve done that with some of our unique processes.”
After having worked within the franchise model for such a long time, the family came to a point where this model had become restrictive, and Ride Time grew out of a desire to break free of these restrictions and become independent.
“My dad was tired of the handcuffs that the franchise model put around you from marketing, or choosing what inventory you had to carry,” Doug says. “Having a used car dealership where you’re 100% in charge of your future was really appealing to him.”
The brothers’ paths into the industry were surprisingly different considering their family ties. Doug played professional hockey for nine years, spending six of those with in the US Minor Leagues and three in Europe, before joining his father and brother Andrew, who had a much more straightforward journey, in the business in 2010.
“I knew that I wanted to be in the car business my whole life,” says Andrew. “I had a passion for it. I remember at six years old begging my dad to allow me to come into work on Saturdays. My first job in the dealership was a greeter – I stood by the front door and anyone that walked in, I would thank them for coming to visit my dad and hope that they buy a car.”
From there, Andrew began answering the phones, and once he had obtained his driver’s license started washing and driving cars. After High School, he took a year out before going to study to make sure this was really the business for him.
“I felt blessed my whole life that I always knew what I wanted to do. I always thought it would be a shame that you would go through four years of post-secondary education to get out and find that you hated what you did every day.”
In 2012, the brothers’ father sadly passed away, signaling a change in both their lives and the direction of the business. Doug and Andrew were suddenly thrust into leadership roles in the dealership, and decisions needed to be made on how to move forward.
“We hired an advertising agency out of New York,” Doug says, “and they were going to help us with digital marketing and some different things. When our dad passed away we had a meeting with them and they said we’ve got to brand ourselves – in conjunction with them, we came up with the ‘Brothers of Bargains’.”
This unique rebranding led to a number of TV spots promoting the dealership, with new commercials every month helping create a following for the business, with the brand beginning to grow significantly as a result.
“The automotive industry suffers from a perception issue,” Andrew says. “My firm belief is one of the biggest problems traditional dealerships have is they force customers into their sales process, and their sales process is developed to benefit the dealership, not necessarily to benefit the customer.”
At Ride Time, the true competition comes not from other dealerships, but the perceptions of customers in other industries they deal with. Andrew cites Amazon as a perfect example of a company that has spent time and money reducing any friction in the sales process, making the sales process it as easy as possible for the consumer.
“If you’re forcing your customers through a traditional sales process at a dealership, you are creating friction, and that friction hampers the customer experience. So when we created this business, what we really tried to create is a customer-first business.”
In practice, this looks like a single point of contact for customers, who look after their best interests, with none of the traditional rigmarole of having to contact the manager and retell their story before any deals can be made.
“All of our salespeople are non-commission, which means the customer can have the peace of mind that whatever we’re trying to help them with, is the best fit for them, not necessarily the vehicle that makes the salesperson the most money.”
Ride Time is always looking to offer the best value to the customer, running services such as complementary oil changes for life, and a heavy focus on merchandising inventory so that customers can see exactly what they are looking for before they even enter the dealership.
“Our consumers, from no matter where they are in the world, can see forty-plus High Definition photos of each vehicle,” Doug adds, “as well as videos of the vehicle, and we have three different 360 immersive views of each piece of our inventory.”
When the dealership put up a new facility was built in 2016, it was built around a state-of-the-art photo studio, so that no matter the weather, Doug and Andrew can always take unbelievable photos of their inventory.
The power of video
The growth of the dealership over the years since the ‘Brothers of Bargain’ rebranding has been astonishing, with the success of Ride Time’s YouTube channel helping to promote the business across the world.
“It all goes back to the power of video,” Andrew says. “At this point we’ve got millions of views on our YouTube page, and that really had to do with us making a video of each vehicle that we have for sale. We started posting that on our YouTube channel and our viewership grew from there. It’s the power of the internet being able to shrink the world.”
This ability to shrink the world has seen the dealership sell vehicles in the United States, Germany, Lebanon, and the Bahamas, as well as extending its reach across Canada and into the Northern Territories. This has been achieved through utilizing the tools available and making service and price point desirable to overseas consumers.
“We joke that we’re addicted to technology,” Doug adds. “We price our inventory through a third-party technology partner, to make sure we are the most competitive price out there. Obviously, if you’re shopping from different parts of the world, you’ve got to have a reason why you’re going to do business with somebody. Our pricing is second to none.”
The automotive industry has been hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic, just as every other industry has, with the big talk being about the shortage of vehicles being sold into the used market.
“Used cars are created from rental car companies, repos and lease returns,” Doug explains, “and when a vehicle is sold. A lot of new car sales have used car trade-ins, and that’s how these used cars are created. Well, if new car supply is off or non-existent, there’s going to be no trade-ins.”
The Canadian government did a decent job of protecting and feeding the automotive economy throughout the pandemic, and as a result repossession dropped to the lowest it has been for a very long time.
“Travelling globally came to a screeching halt; manufacturers quit selling rental car companies vehicles, because they didn’t have enough to supply their own retail customers, so there were no rentals coming back. It’s really put a strain on supply. Also, if new car dealers don’t have new cars to sell, they’re going to get more active in the used car market.”
With new car dealers typically holding around 70% of their inventory as trade-ins, without those trade-ins they end up fishing in the same pond as independent dealers such as Ride Time. The hope had been that this issue would be resolved this year, but all signs look like it will continue into 2023.
“What we do find is,” Andrew says, “the price of a new car has got so expensive. Since 2017, the average new car price [in the US] is now up $11,581, or roughly 33%. That number in 2017 was up 35% in the last 20 years. That means new car prices have gotten so expensive that you’re going to push a lot of people out of that new car market.”
With the coming interest rate rises in Canada, new vehicles are only going to get more expensive. For Ride Time, this creates a great opportunity to sell more used vehicles to people getting priced out of the new car market.
“Vehicles in general are a need, especially in the Prairies,” Doug adds. “We travel greater distances. Consumers still need vehicles. We made a commitment that we’re always going to stock inventory. We’ve done our best to keep our inventory levels high, because people in our community and across the country are going to need used cars.”
All the signs are pointing to the used car industry continuing to grow, as more and more consumers decide that the high prices of the new market are just not worth it for the value they offer. Which means the future for dealerships like Ride Time promises to be bright.
“The car business is an interesting industry,” Doug concludes, “because no two days are the same. There are always challenges, there are ups-and-downs forever, and it’s an exciting, exhilarating industry to be involved in.”
With its commitment to selling used cars on the customer’s terms, Ride Time and the ‘Brothers of Bargains’ are well set to take advantage of the bright future for used car sales in Canada and across the world. Find out more about Ride Time by visiting www.ridetime.ca.