Great Dane Montreal has devoted 18,000 square feet to its parts department—more space than the entire facility that the company used to occupy.
For Great Dane’s dealer in Montreal, the goal is to be a one-stop shop. If the customer’s need is related to trailers, Great Dane Montreal wants customers to be able to get it at their sprawling, 65,000-sq-ft facility in St-Henri, a borough of Quebec’s largest city.
President Michel Larocque views parts as a key to making that possible.
“The shop needs them. Our customers need them,” he says. “So if we are going to meet the needs of our customers, we need them, too.”
So how committed is Great Dane Montreal to the parts business? When the company moved to a new facility a few years ago, Great Dane Montreal dedicated 18,000 square feet to the parts department. The combination of parts showroom and warehouse is larger than the entire facility the company previously occupied.
Or viewed from this perspective, parts are so important to Great Dane Montreal that Larocque has established a separate company that sells parts.
“CO Parts helps us go after a different market,” Larocque says. “The name sounds like a parts company and not just another trailer dealer selling parts. We don’t just sell parts to our customers—we also sell them to our competitors. Our separate company makes it easier for our competitors to buy from us.”
Six people sell for CO Parts. Three handle inside sales, and three more reach out to customers throughout the greater Montreal market. As part of that outreach, the company has two dedicated parts delivery trucks.
“We sell brakes, drums, body, flooring, suspension parts. Anything that goes on a trailer,” Larocque says. “We offer all major brands such as Bendix, Meritor, Haldex, Total, Truck-lite, Ancra, International, and many others. We are able to meet our customers’ needs quickly and efficiently, thanks to our excellent customer service team and our computer systems at the leading edge of technology.”
The products the company sells go beyond hardware for trailers. Truck fluids such as antifreeze and windshield washer fluids are popular, but so is safety clothing. Full-size mannequins can be found standing around in several places in the showroom. They are easily seen because they have on a variety of highly visible hats and safety vests.
Although not required by law, many fleets require the attire as a matter of policy for drivers and others whose job requires them to walk through yards and terminals. With its higher latitudes, it can get dark in many areas of Canada by late afternoon, and the increased visibility becomes important for people who share close spaces with large vehicles.
A company of companies
Great Dane Montreal is one of several companies that form Groupe St-Henri to serve the market. CO Parts is another.
“Great Dane of Montreal is the trailer sales division of Remorques St-Henri Inc,” explains Chris Hammond, vice-president of dealer and international sales for Great Dane Trailers. “Great Dane Montreal has recently positioned itself as the largest trailer repair facility in Eastern Canada. And the addition of the trailer product line is a natural fit. We are thrilled that customers in the area are able to benefit from Great Dane of Montreal’s expertise and industry knowledge.”
What is now Groupe St-Henri started in 1978 by his father as a division of his transportation company that specialized in hauling steel. Today Michel and two brothers run the operation. Andre Larocque handles parts sales and accounting. Serg Larocque is the service manager.
The company became a Great Dane dealer in 2013 and also represents Trail King, a Great Dane sister brand. To fill out its product lineup, Great Dane Montreal sells Felling specialized trailers and Cheetah container chassis. Montreal has shown itself to be a strong market for container chassis, and Groupe St-Henri has been selling them for 25 years.
Latest in a series
Great Dane Montreal is now in its 38th year in business and is now conducting business in its third shop. At 65,000 square feet, the current location is about four times larger than the previous shop.
Larocque was attracted to the site as much for its location as for its building. Property such as this one, between downtown Montreal and the airport, are tough to obtain. However, plenty of work had to be done to prepare the building to serve as home for a trailer dealership.
The building had been used as a lumber warehouse. It lacked a number of things that trailer dealers look for in a building—such as doors and walls. The open building worked well to keep lumber out of the rain, but it was not enough to keep shop technicians out of the cold.
And without walls, it’s pointless to have doors. Great Dane Montreal added both—putting up walls and adding 25 shop doors (the lumber warehouse had none) to allow access to the work bays.
“We spent $3 million to renovate this building and make it the largest trailer facility in Eastern Canada,” Larocque says. “We could have gone on television and starred on Extreme Makeover.”
Parts and service departments both benefit from the “Extreme Makeover.”
“We created new homes for the service department and for parts,” Larocque says. “The new place is a major improvement for parts. In our old location, we stored much of our inventory outside. Here we have plenty of room inside, which is much more efficient for us and better protection for our inventory.”
“With 25 repair bays, we are the largest trailer center in Quebec,” Larocque says. “We have 95 technicians and welders to perform any kind of work on semitrailers. We offer accident repairs, insurance estimates, maintenance, inspection, trailer modification, and laser alignment.”
The larger shop also helps Great Dane Montreal serve as an authorized Quebec inspection center—one of 10 in Montreal. And a switch to Karmak software, along with an expanded parts warehouse, has made life easier for the company’s fleet of 25 mobile service trucks.
Each service truck is equipped with a laptop computer. With the Karmak system, the laptops help manage inventory, and they generate invoices onsite.
“The system has been great for tracking the parts that we use,” Larocque says. “When you operate 25 service trucks, it’s like having 25 small parts departments.
In addition to selling parts, trailers, and service, Great Dane Montreal is an Autocar truck dealer. The system also handles those parts, too.
Great Dane Montreal has been an Autocar dealer since 2013.
“We were looking for additional products to sell,” Larocque says. “Many of our customers overlap. It was a good product for us to add. It’s all part of being a one-stop shop.”
For more information check out Great Dane in Montreal