Covering the western approaches to the GTA
STUTTGART’S TIMELESS SPORTS CARS have cultivated vibrant enthusiast communities the world over, and nowhere is this more apparent than within the Porsche Club of America.
Once the home of PCA’s smallest region, the GTA has become the heart of its largest. With four official dealerships within 45 minutes of one another, this relatively small area has developed into one of Porsche’s most important North American markets. Our fair region encompasses a whole lot more than just the GTA, however. Head two hours across the 401 and the Porschephile trend continues. From Cambridge to Windsor, UCR’s passionate southwestern members keep their cars as busy as any other PCA members and when these folks need something for their beloved vehicles, they needn’t look far.
Centrally located between Toronto and the Michigan border, Porsche of London serves a broad clientele across Ontario’s southern corridor. Born of a partnership between the London-based Leavens group and Newmarket’s Pfaff family, the dealership entered the scene in 2010 to cater to customers across southwestern Ontario. While it might seem like a small place on paper, the combined might of Leavens’ local experience, Pfaff’s extensive network and resources, and the team’s passion and hard work have thrust Porsche of London beyond all targets so far this year and set it on an upward trajectory into the years to come.
At the helm is General Manager Steve Rempel, a 12-year veteran of BMW and longtime Porsche enthusiast. For Steve, it all began with a phone call one evening after work. “Dad, I’m going to buy a 911” he said, before inviting him to come and share in the experience (and to exercise it when he was busy). His M Roadster had been a blast, he explained, but “[the 911] really is one of the most practical cars you can buy.” Where the Z3 could only fit a set of clubs in the passenger seat with the roof down, the 911 allowed him to load his three kids into the car and go out for ice cream.
Coming from BMW, maybe seven out of ten salespeople truly knew the product. Here, everybody knows (and loves) it inside and out. The detailed knowledge that some of these people bring to their work is truly incredible.
When the opportunity arose for him to take a position working with Porsche, it was a no-brainer. More than just an opportunity within Leavens-Pfaff, Steve saw this as a chance to engage his automotive passion and to grow with a smaller and more focused team. “Coming from BMW, maybe seven out of ten salespeople truly knew the product. Here, everybody knows (and loves) it inside and out. The detailed knowledge that some of these people bring to their work is truly incredible.”
It’s a statement that holds up whether you look to the sales floor or the wash bay. Venture on to the former and Tim Bamford will show you some of his proudest and most unique custom car configurations while Brad McGonigle can wax lyrical about how it feels to drive the entire Porsche lineup as part of “the greatest job in the world.” In the shop, Manfred Werner and his Porsche Classic-certified colleague Keith, work away at London’s complete in-house restoration of a ’73 911 Sportomatic – at least until their local 918 comes in and puts another of Keith’s qualifications to work. Turn to Parts & Service, and Brad Van Bakel will help you find an elusive tie rod for your manual-racked 944 while Service Manager Mike Salter enthuses about air-cooled engines with a fellow 930 driver in the lounge.
In all, Porsche of London employs a team of twenty-six, including six Product Specialists and four technicians, as well as a bevy of skilled peers who work with them to ensure that everything runs effectively. It is clearly a tight-knit family and it comes as little surprise that so many of its members trace their roots back to its beginning.
Asked about the store’s success through the first half of 2017, Steve gestures around to his colleagues who he credits with establishing a firm foundation through the end of 2016. He also credits helpful guidance from above, such as the steering encouragement of Dealer Principal Chris Leavens (who came of age in his father’s VW and Audi stores), as well as goal-setting and advisory sessions led by Pfaff’s James Coates. Finally he credits the cars: “People still see so many of the older vehicles on the road and on social media, and it really helps to show and establish the value of the Porsche brand.”
Looking to the future, Steve beams with optimism. “It won’t be long before we outgrow this place,” he suggests with a smile. As UCR’s southwestern activity has demonstrated, a vast (and growing) community of Porschephiles exists beyond the bounds of the GTA. We thank Porsche of London for their support, and we look forward to seeing their team grow in the years to come. </>
Story & Photos by Elliot Alder