AutoCanada, facing investor pressure, appoints new president

'Company has yet to attain its goals for superior operational performance'

Michael Rawluk is AutoCanada's new president. Photo credit: Michael Rawluk/Facebook

AutoCanada Inc., the country’s largest publicly traded auto dealership group, named Michael Rawluk president and parted ways with Mark Warsaba just as the group is coping with pressure from investors.

The company said Warsaba resigned as senior vice president and COO and that Rawluk had been appointed president.

Rawluk will assume full responsibility over dealership operations, as well as associated functions, including business intelligence, marketing and human resources, the company said in a statement. 

Warsaba was senior vice president and COO, but the job is similar to that of president.

Warsaba was responsible for the operational performance of existing dealerships as well as the integration and performance of new dealerships, the company said in a statement at the time of his hiring.

Rawluk is the second person in the last 15 months to assume the group’s second-highest executive position. Warsaba had only held the job since April 1, 2017, when he replaced Thomas Orysiuk, who held the title since 2011.

The changes come less than a month after AutoCanada’s board of directors appointed a special committee of independent directors to review strategic alternatives following a request by an activist shareholder.

The auto dealership group says the special committee will review options to maximize shareholder value.

AutoCanada’s net income jumped 31 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, even as revenue and vehicle sales at the group declined.

“AutoCanada has rapidly grown since its founding, and we will continue to selectively acquire stores that fit our criteria,” Board Chair Paul Anthony said in a statement. “However, the company has yet to attain its goals for superior operational performance, and Michael will help us build out the operational muscle within AutoCanada.”

The dealership group was founded in 2009.

Rawluk was most recently the COO of the Birchwood Automotive Group's 22 dealerships in Winnipeg, where he began his automotive career more than 15 years ago.

“Michael's unique operational experience and skill-set will be invaluable,” AutoCanada CEO Steven Landry said in the same company statement.

First-quarter net income rose to $4.8 million (US$3.7 million). Revenue fell 2.9 percent to $620.5 million (US$482 million), while total vehicle sales dipped three percent to 12,667 units. The drop in sales was driven in large part by a 16 percent decline in fleet deliveries.

In March, AutoCanada bought nine of the 10 stores in the Grossinger Auto Group of Chicago, establishing its presence in the lucrative U.S. auto retail market. The group operates 54 dealerships in Canada.

AutoCanada did not immediately respond to calls and emails from Automotive News Canada.

You can reach Greg Layson at glayson@autonews.com -- Follow Greg on Twitter: @GLaysonANC

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