Montreal

We want to work weekends: Montreal car dealers

Some Montreal car dealerships may be able to do business on weekends thanks to a rebel salesman who flaunted tradition and opened his store on Saturdays and Sundays.

Some Montreal car dealerships may be able to do business on weekends thanks to a rebel salesman who flaunted tradition and opened his store on Saturdays and Sundays.

The Montreal Automobile Dealers' Corporation is now polling members to gauge their appetite for extended business hours after car dealer Sam Hajjar defied their three-decade-old convention.

For 34 years, new car dealerships in the city shut down on weekends, respecting a policy brokered in 1972 by lot owners and members of the corporation who wanted to give sales personnel a reasonable amount of time off.

In January 2007, Montreal lot owner Sam Hajjar rejected the convention and opened his Pie IX Dodge Chrysler dealership on Saturdays in a bid to boost his business.

It worked.

Hajjar says sales at his east-end lot ballooned 40 per cent. But his move was scorned by other owners who have picketed his lot every weekend since early winter.

"They're trying to put pressure on us to close. But we don't accept that they come and stay in front of the dealer and scream after the customers," he told CBC.

Hajjar lost his membership to the corporation, but it is revising the rules in a poll sent out to its 221 members this month.

"We've never had any indication that our members wanted to open on weekends, but we're sending out a memo to ask them anyway," said Matthieu Beaudoin, a spokesman for the dealership corporation, who said about 60 per cent of members supported the initial 1972 policy.

Some owners are ready for change.

"It's only a matter of time," car dealer Sako Liberian told the Montreal Gazette. "Times are a changing, the association isn't. Some of these guys have to get their act together, because what was good then isn't now."