by Gloria Welton
Now celebrating its 44th year, Centennial Auto Group is the largest automotive group on PEI. Further expansion is par for the course for Centennial, a company that remains fully family-owned and operated after a period of relatively rapid growth in all three Maritime provinces.
“Due to the fact that we continue to expand – plus the continuous increase in trust that our clients have in our team – we are always looking for more people who are motivated and want to learn,” says Jeff McKenna. As Centennial’s Human Resources Manager for the last six years, Jeff has witnessed first-hand the company-wide growth.
“With the addition of four companies in the past year, there are now 260 of us working with Centennial; that’s up nearly 20 percent in just one year.”
With such a broad network of businesses in the Group, joining the Centennial team doesn’t limit employees to a narrow field. “There are a lot of opportunities within Centennial for people to get started and advance,” says Jeff, who is himself an example of Centennial’s advancement track.
“This includes the obvious automotive industry roles such as Technicians and Sales Consultants, but also Accountants, IT professionals, Marketing Experts, Service Advisors, Carpenters, and many more.”
Centennial Auto Group is perhaps best known for selling and servicing new and pre-owned vehicles, but also operates Centennial Carstar collision centres across PEI, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia in addition to two new auto washes and two powersports/RV locations.
The Group encompasses the following companies:
There are five vehicle dealerships in PEI:
- Centennial Honda in Summerside
- Centennial Kia in Summerside
- Centennial Mazda in Charlottetown
- Centennial Nissan of Summerside
- Centennial Nissan of Charlottetown
There are two powersports stores in PEI that now also include RVs:
- Centennial Auto-Sport & Tire/Centennial Certified in Charlottetown
- Centennial Auto-Sport & Tire in Summerside
There are also 10 collision centres:
- Summerside, PEI
- Charlottetown, PEI
- Moncton, NB
- Dieppe, NB
- Riverview, NB
- Amherst, NS
- New Glasgow, NS
- Truro, NS
- Dartmouth, NS (Carstar)
- Dartmouth, NS (TD Auto Insurance)
Training, mentorship, and advancements Jeff turned his teaching degree into a career in the automotive industry. Ten years ago, he started at Centennial Honda in Summerside as Parts Advisor, and then moved to Sales Administration, Sales Manager, and now Human Resources Manager for Centennial Auto Group. Jeff’s trajectory in the company is not an uncommon one.
“It’s been terrific to do all these roles. It has helped me to understand the car business as a whole and see how the different business divisions can work together.
“We want to see staff succeed in their role by treating them fairly and creating an atmosphere that is enjoyable to work in and where friendships are formed.”
Many Centennial team members begin in entry-level positions, which often helps determine if the employee is committed to the company’s core values, a key quality the company looks for in people who are seeking to move up in the organization. A caring attitude, ethical conduct, a commitment to never-ending improvement, and the ability to work as part of the team are core tenets of Centennial’s success.
“We like to see ambition and a willingness to learn and take instructions. The more they know, the more value they are to the company, and the more opportunity there is for advancement.”
Difficult positions to fill
“We regularly post technician trades such as Auto Body, Automotive, and Motorcycle Technicians because there are not as many people readily available to work in these trades,” says Jeff. “We offer to train people from the ground up and staff can enter the apprenticeship program to earn their Red Seal in the trade of their choice.”
“We are always looking for positive and hard-working individuals who have an interest or experience in the industry,” says Jeff. “All our open positions are posted on the Careers page of our website. Our ads are also on Canada Job Bank, Facebook, Glassdoor, WorkPEI, and Indeed. Applicants are redirected to our website where they can apply directly.
“When interviewing potential candidates, we ask about past experience, their passion for the industry, attention to detail, and how they get along with others. We also ask about availability, reliability, and dependability.”
After the interviews, some applicants are offered a different job than what they applied for because they seem to be a good fit. “We try to see the potential in people and give them the best option.”
Compensation & benefits
“We offer competitive wages, health and dental coverage, life and disability insurance, employee discounts, gym membership, company-matching RRSP, and the best co-workers in the business,” says Jeff. “Every year, we have a number of staff appreciation events. Our company-wide Christmas banquet is always a highlight of the year.”