Then & Now: Rapid expansion for Turner Volkswagen

Since 2001 the Turner family has owned and operated Kelowna's Volkswagen dealership, operated since the 1940s by Gil Mervin.

Turner Volkswagen’s location at 1717 Harvey Ave. in Kelowna.

A local family-operated dealership celebrates a rich 75-year history in Kelowna this year.

When Mervyn Motors opened in the 1940s, it was a local service station and garage operated by Gil Mervin.

By 1953, the business was also the Okanagan’s first Volkswagen dealership.

Then in 1963, Mervin sold the business—and since 2001, the Turner family has owned and operated the dealership.

Aaron Fanslau, the general manager, says that Turner VW has seen a number of changes in the intervening years.

“Originally we were Turner Volkswagen–Audi,” he says, “but in 2013 we moved Audi out to become a standalone Volkswagen dealership. Basically, we outgrew our facility.”

That growth trend doesn’t seem to have stopped, as Fanslau says the dealership is planning even more changes in order to accommodate increased consumer demand for Volkswagen.

“As of last year, Volkswagen is the second largest automotive brand in the world. And in 2015, it’s been the fastest growing auto brand in Canada. We employ over 40 people now, and we’re looking at an expansion in the near future.”

Fanslau notes that the Volkswagen logo is one of the top three most recognized logos on Earth, and that over the last 20 years, Kelowna has welcomed Volkswagen into the city.

Volkswagen is striving to repay that kind welcome, Fanslau says, by supporting community initiatives like the Okanagan College Foundation, Canadian Cancer Society, the Kelowna Fire Department, BC Special Olympics and the Kelowna Falcons.

Turner VW also sponsors a number of local events like the Apple Triathlon, Futures Tennis Tournament and the Kelowna Comedy Festival.

It’s the dealership’s growth that has allowed them to give back to the community, but that growth hasn’t come without its challenges.

“Rapid growth always comes with space constraints,” Fanslau says.

“Our biggest challenge has come with expanding the space. We’ve also had to hire a much higher volume of people.

“We’ve had to ensure we have the right people in the right places and the right processes.

“We’re trying to keep that small-town dealership feel where everyone is treated with value and respect. “

The brand is also planning major expansions for the near future in order to accommodate a growing product line. Volkswagen recently updated its Golf line of vehicles with a 2015 model, and the 2015 Golf has quickly become the most awarded car in Volkswagen’s 78-year history.

Fanslau says that Volkswagen is preparing to double its Canadian product portfolio within the next two years, with a variety of new SUVs and cars in the works.

Fanslau says that working at Volkswagen is very rewarding, and his favourite aspect of his job is the people—both clients and staff.

“We’re people who believe in our product and in our culture.  90 per cent of our staff drive Volkswagens. I love talking with our clients.”

Fanslau says that the secret to a sustainable and successful business is sustainable and successful relationships.

“If you value people and you build a relationship, the business comes naturally. That’s what we’re about—building relationships with people,” Fanslau says.

“We’ve always valued being part of the community.

“We’ve been here for a long, long time, and we’re excited to be part of Kelowna.”