FEATURE: National Post

The immigrant’s dream is to risk everything, to build their fortune in a new land.

For Toronto auto dealer Benny Leung, the dream came true: Through hard work, honesty, and a commitment to treating his customers like family, Leung has progressed from being a penniless immigrant from Hong Kong to the respected, prosperous owner of three car dealerships (Toronto Hyundai, West Toronto Kia, and Genesis Yorkdale). He was also President of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association (TADA) in 2014, representing more than 1,100 new car dealers across Ontario, as well as the Canadian International Auto Show in 2015.

“My two cents’ worth of advice for new Canadians? Consider a career in automotive sales to build your future here,” said Leung. “If you pursue car sales as an honourable profession where you honestly put customers’ needs first and foremost, you can create an excellent life for yourself and our family. I’ve done just that.”

Benny Leung’s story is a classic Canadian tale. Coming to Toronto in 1971 without a cent to his name, Leung pursued success by earning a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Toronto. “I got high marks when I graduated, but I couldn’t find a job,” he said. So I went to York University to get a degree in Business Administration; graduated again with high marks — and still couldn’t find a job!”

After various adventures, including returning to Hong Kong for two years, Benny Leung found himself back in Toronto in 1981. He was well educated, broke, and living in his sister’s basement in Markham. “I didn’t have a car and there were no buses, so I decided to get a job at an auto dealership,” Leung recalled. “I didn’t know a thing about selling cars, but I figured I’d at least get access to a demo car to drive to and from work.”

As it turned out, Leung’s boss was grudgingly willing to give him a demo car — if his new salesperson sold three cars in a week. “After he told me this, I learned that this dealer’s top salesman only sold four cars a month!” Leung said. “I knew the odds were against me, but what could I do? I needed a car!”

As luck would have it, Leung ran into a “very big, strong man” asking for the sales department. “I saw my chance and said, ‘I’m a salesman!’ So we looked around the lot, he saw a used car he liked the look of, and we went for a test drive.”

A few blocks away from the dealership, the car died: “It has no gas in it,” said Leung. “The big guy said, ‘let’s push it to a gas station.’ After spending the only $2 Leung had on gas — “it was my lunch money,” he recalled — the pair got the car going, drove it around, and then got back to the lot. “After all that trouble, the customer looked at me and said, ‘you’re honest: I’m going to buy this car from you.’” Leung then closed this and two more sales that first week and the demo car was his.

Benny Leung learned two valuable lessons from his early sales experiences. “The first one was to work hard, and to always be honest with the customers,” he said. “The second was that I wanted to run my own dealership and change how cars were being sold in Toronto, because in those days honesty didn’t matter to many dealers.”

Today, through dedicated hard work, a sincere and passionate commitment to customer service, and a willingness to treat his staff and his community well, Leung has achieved the Canadian dream. “Success in car sales is all about customer service and trust,” he said. “You remember when Toyota ran into quality issues some years back, yet their cars continued to sell like hotcakes. That happened because Toyota customers rightly trusted Toyota to put the problems right. That is how Hyundai, Genesis and Kia also do business — and precisely how I run my dealerships.”

The results speak for themselves. In 1998, Leung and a partner bought a struggling Hyundai dealership (his first) and within a year, doubled its sales by putting customers first. “My emphasis is on fair prices and honest, quick service,” he said. “This is why Toronto Hyundai’s referral rate for new customers — that’s satisfied clients sending new clients to us — is 50 to 60 per cent. We have people coming from Barrie to buy from us!”

“You can prosper as an immigrant here if you choose auto sales, work very hard, and do your best to do things the Canadian way,” Benny Leung concluded. “The Canadian dream has come true for me — and it can for you too!”