Aly Jiwani turns a love of cars into top sales and leadership roles
Words LAUREN KRAMER
Photography LIA CROWE
If there’s one passion driving Aly Jiwani forward, it’s his love for selling cars.
The 43-year-old Vancouverite’s career has been on an upward trajectory since his first job as a car salesman at Surrey Honda at the age of 19. Today, as vice-president of regional operations, he oversees OpenRoad’s dealerships in Vancouver, Toronto and Seattle, managing a staff of more than 500.
In the midst of a crazy travel schedule that sees him working regularly in all three cities, Aly still finds time to return to his passion.
“Buying a car is a big deal, and I love seeing the smiles on customers’ faces when they come to pick up their new car,” he reflects. “Buying a car is a massive transaction and when you see the joy people get from their new vehicles, it’s a great feeling.”
Aly grew up in the automotive world and represents the third generation in his family to venture into the industry. His grandfather managed dealerships in Uganda in the 1960s, and when his family moved to Canada in 1972, their work in the industry continued.
Aly’s father was a race car driver in the early 1980s and later worked in Honda automotive service, while his uncle was a Toyota dealer in Alberta. When the family gathered around the dinner table, the conversation inevitably turned to cars.
After high school, Aly studied science at Simon Fraser University, switching soon afterwards to business. At 19, in his second year as a student, he needed a job to pay for tuition and college textbooks. He drafted a resume and drove from one Honda dealership to another until he found work. Five stops into his journey he nailed a job at Surrey Honda and started work the next day.
To his—and everyone else’s—surprise, he sold his first car that same day. Within his first week of sales, he’d sold four vehicles. The team at the dealership was floored by the young newcomer and his uncanny ability to close a deal. But for Aly, selling cars came naturally.
As a kid, he’d always been passionate about cars.
“On my way to school, I’d stop at car dealerships and hang out. When the auto show was in town, I’d attend every day. I loved talking about cars, and at the time, I thought to myself, ‘if I can talk to people about cars and get paid doing it, then why not?’”
In his first month at Surrey Honda, Aly was ranked as the second top salesperson. After the second month he ranked first.
“I think customers bought from me because they knew they weren’t being taken advantage of,” he says. “Back then, there was no internet, so people had to go to a dealership, see a brochure and speak to a salesperson to find out information about a car. And I think customers just enjoyed dealing with me.”
In 2000, as he was graduating with his bachelor’s degree, Aly ranked 13th top salesperson in British Columbia. At the Honda awards ceremony, he recalls meeting the top sales folk and wondering what he could learn from them. Then and there, he made the decision to commit to the automotive industry full time and to excel in it.
And excel he did. Between 2001 and 2004 he held the title of Grand Master for Honda Canada, an honour that goes to the top performers.
Aly’s career with OpenRoad began in 2004, when he met OpenRoad CEO Christian Chia. The transition to the new job wasn’t exactly smooth and Aly well recalls one of his first paycheques at Richmond Toyota: zero income.
“I went from being the number one salesperson in Canada to nothing,” he says. “I was a colossal failure.”
Christian wasn’t fazed, though, and moved him to assistant sales manager at Honda Burnaby one year later. That move rejuvenated Aly and marked the start of his exponential rise at OpenRoad. By 2008, he was general manager at OpenRoad’s North Vancouver Acura dealership. When Aly took over, it was not faring well, but under his leadership it became one of the most successful dealerships in the country.
In 2011, he opened OpenRoad BMW in Langley. Porsche Centre Langley followed in 2014, and then he managed several retail outlets in Langley Auto Mall Collection.
Also in 2014, Aly was named as one of Automotive News’ Top 40 Under 40—the first Canadian ever to win the honour. In 2019, he took leadership roles at OpenRoad Northwest in Seattle, and was then promoted to the role of vice-president, regional operations. A year later, he was tasked to lead OpenRoad’s expansion in Toronto, where the company acquired two large dealerships.
His boss, Chritsian Chia, remains Aly’s idol to this day.
“Christian inspires me every day, and I work as hard as I do because I cherish his approval,” he reflects. “He is the epitome of what I aspire to be. He’s just that guy that people want to work for.”
Though work keeps him insanely busy, Aly’s passion hasn’t dulled over the years. He thoroughly enjoys his BMW M4, and to this day, loves selling cars, training new salespeople in the industry, and seeing their passion in making a deal.
“We’re helping people make dreams come true, whether it’s a Honda Civic or a Rolls Royce Phantom,” he says. “People love cars; it’s such a statement of who you are and what you believe in. Whether you’ve bought one car or 50, it’s still a pretty exciting day when you pick it up—and I love witnessing that moment.”