Tribute to industry legend, Doug Sullivan

Doug began his career in the car industry in 1981, as a salesperson at George Stockfish Lincoln Mercury in North Bay. In 1985, he achieved Ford’s Summit Award, the highest national honour for sales achievement.

By Susan Gubasta

The great James Brown earned a nickname as ‘the hardest working man in show business.’ I thought of that moniker as I prepared this column about my friend, colleague and auto industry veteran, Doug Sullivan.

During his 40-year career, Doug was one of the hardest working people in the retail auto industry. In light of Doug’s recent retirement, I thought it would be fitting to sing his praises and to honour his many achievements.

Readers will recognize Doug from his Wheels column (2015/’16), while presiding over the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association, the first President from outside of the GTA in the TADA’s 108-year history.

 Doug began his career in the car industry in 1981, as a salesperson at George Stockfish Lincoln Mercury in North Bay. In 1985, he achieved Ford’s Summit Award, the highest national honour for sales achievement.

In 1986, Doug was promoted to Used Car Manager and, in 1992, to General Sales Manager. Later that year, he became a partner at that dealership, and a decade later, he became a partner at Pinewood Park Motors in Kirkland Lake and at Sunset Lincoln Mercury in North Bay.

In 2002, Doug sold his interest in three dealerships and continued working for the Stockfish Auto Group.

Then in 2005, after missing the excitement of the car business, he purchased a struggling Ford franchise in Huntsville (Bickley Ford), and quickly turned it around. He was Dealer Principal at the renamed New Bickley Ford until 2018.

On the industry side, Doug served as a board member of the TADA, and later as its President, working in support of automotive education, safe driving, community relations and other issues; and served as President of the 2017 Canadian International AutoShow. 

His role as President of the Ontario Automobile Dealers Association allowed him to negotiate the unification of the Ontario and Toronto dealers Associations in 2012. The combined association now serves Ontario dealers with a single voice under the banner of TADA.

Twice, Doug served on the board of the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association, and was a top five finalist for the prestigious CADA Laureate Ambassador Award. Of the 3,500 dealers nationwide, this elite honour acknowledges dealer contributions to the industry and to their communities.

For nearly four decades, Doug’s passion for automobiles and customer service knew no bounds. He once helped an entire stranded basketball team find free accommodations and a loaner car when its bus broke down near Huntsville. On another occasion, he sent a driver to Gander, Newfoundland to pick up a rare Ford Ranger for a customer, “Come from Away”, Sullivan style.

Doug’s random acts of kindness and generosity are legendary within the dealership world, and within Huntsville, where he lived and worked for many years. A strong supporter of many charitable groups and organizations, he is a 38-year member of the Royal Canadian Legion, and a 29-year member of the North Bay Elks Club.

Whenever someone won a prize at his dealership, he would drive to the winner’s home and present the prize in person – often at night.

Doug is a three-time recipient of the Rotary’s Paul Harris Award, for making substantial contributions to the Rotary Club. He was the Chair of the Student Exchange Program and assisted with the implementation of the Citizen of the Year Award. Doug donated hockey bags to pack the donations and supplies for Rotary’s recent Humanitarian trips to Honduras.

In addition, Doug has supported dozens of local causes, including the Huntsville Memorial Hospital Foundation, the Muskoka & Parry Sound Independent Animal Rescue, local fairs, winter carnivals, fishing derbies, benefit concerts, sports teams, Santa Claus parades, charity golf tournaments, food banks, and more.

On behalf of the TADA, I would like to thank Doug for his many years of dedication and outstanding service to our industry, for his philanthropy work, and for making a positive difference in the lives of so many people.

Wishing Doug and his wife of 38 years, Ramona, all the best in health and happiness in their retirement years.

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