Canadian Tire launching driving school to bring added value

June 26, 2012  |  Chris Powell  |  Comments

Parallel parking, three-point turns, winter driving: bring it on.

Canadian Tire is adding another pillar to its automotive parts and service business with a new venture called the Canadian Tire Drivers Academy. It is launching as a pilot project in Toronto in August, with two other Southern Ontario locations planned before the end of the year.

Allan MacDonald, senior vice-president, automotive at Canadian Tire in Toronto, said the in-house initiative – in development for the past year – would amplify the retailer’s reputation as the country’s leading automotive expert.

“There’s a huge opportunity for us to reinforce our place in the market by engaging Canadians both at the product level and at the driving level,” said MacDonald (pictured). “What better place to start than their first driving experience.”

In addition to standard driving school curriculum, the Canadian Tire Drivers Academy is adding a new automotive maintenance component that will inform students about basic automotive concepts such as changing a tire and ensuring that windshield washer fluid is kept topped up.

It will also strive to foster brand loyalty by giving graduates a Canadian Tire Drivers Club membership that includes free Canadian Tire Roadside Assistance for one year as well as discounts and offers on automotive products and services.

“We want to earn [customers’] business for life, and doing that means offering more than just an average retailer, and getting engaged by providing instruction that’s commensurate with being Canada’s automotive authority,” said MacDonald.

He added that Canadian Tire hopes new drivers will feel the company brought a lot of value to the equation. “Hopefully from that point on they’ll continue to think of us when it comes to their automotive needs.”

While the venture is aimed primarily at younger Canadians, MacDonald said the program would also cater to new Canadians and seniors. The program is being soft-launched with some online advertising and PR outreach with which North Strategic was involved, said MacDonald.

The Canadian Tire Drivers Academy will include the Canadian Tire triangle logo, while a new custom-built classroom facility is located in close proximity to a Canadian Tire store in Toronto’s east end.

The program has been approved by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation as a beginner driver’s education course provider. The beginner drivers course costs $799, the G1 road test course is $150 and the G2 road test course is $375.

While not created solely as a marketing initiative, MacDonald said the Canadian Tire Drivers Academy could herald a change in how the retailer reaches its customers. “We could invest so much in sponsorship and awareness targeting different segments, but this is an opportunity for us to build a business in which we actually participate in helping Canadians become better drivers,” he said.

“The days of competing just on traditional marketing are changing, and younger Canadians have different expectations,” he added. “We’ve challenged ourselves by saying ‘What would the leading automotive company in Canada do to continue to stand out from the crowd and drive value for its customers?’”

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