Automotive News Canada - July 2019 - v2 - 4

4

Nav Bhatia's fame as
the Toronto Raptors
superfan translates to
sales at his dealerships,
but his long-term
success comes from
being Hyundai's 'soldier'

* JULY 2019

Hyundai dealer and Raptors' superfan Nav Bhatia -
pictured with assistant coach Adrian Griffin and his
wife, Kathy - led the parade celebrating the team's
NBA championship. Bhatia's connection with fans
has brought awareness to his Hyundai and Genesis
dealerships.
PHOTO SUPPLIED BY NAV BHATIA

By PERRY LEFKO

TORONTO CORRESPONDENT

TORONTO - HE IS LIKELY THE
the most famous dealer principal in
North America.
Nav Bhatia's international celebrity status as the Toronto Raptors'
superfan has eclipsed his success as
the owner of the top-selling Hyundai
store in Canada.
But his two worlds often intersect.
Advertisements promoting his two
Hyundai dealerships and his Genesis
store depict a smiling Bhatia, with one
raised index finger to denote No. 1, and
the other hand cradling a basketball.
"He is fiercely loyal in every
respect, from his family life to his
sporting life to his faith and, finally,
to his business," said Hyundai Canada
President Don Romano.
"Nav bleeds Hyundai blue. He has
been offered many other franchises, but
he refuses to accept them. He constantly reminds us that everything he has
acquired in life came from Hyundai.
"His famous saying to me and our
team at Hyundai Canada is simply, 'I
am your soldier.'
"This is our biggest dealer in
Canada, but in his eyes, he is simply
'our solider.'

FREEBIES AND PHOTOS
Bhatia's fame has been on a steady
rise since 1995 when the National
Basketball Association launched the
Raptors in Toronto. But it exploded
when the franchise made history as
the first Canadian team to clinch a
spot in the playoffs and then win the
NBA championship in June.
While the Raptors were beating the
two-time defending champion Golden
State Warriors, the sports world became
aware of Bhatia, donning his religious
turban - he's a devout Sikh - and sitting courtside. He signed autographs,
posed for photos and did interviews
with multiple media outlets, including
ABC's "Good Morning America."
"When I was in Oakland, I got a lot of
love," he told Automotive News Canada.
"I got to take maybe 3,000-4,000 pictures
with the Oakland fans. I was offered free
coffee, free lunches, free dinners and
[invitations] to stay with them, so it was
an amazing experience."
Even Golden State Warriors' head
coach Steve Kerr congratulated Bhatia
on the Raptors' victory.
"Nav, we lost, it hurts, but I'm so
happy for you because you deserve
this championship," Kerr said. "And
I'm happy to see you as a champion
because I've been seeing you over the

COURTING FAME

last two decades supporting the game
of basketball."

LEADING THE PARADE
Maple Leaf Sports and
Entertainment, which owns the team,
chose Bhatia as the grand marshal
to lead the victory parade through
downtown Toronto because he represented the fans, said spokesman Dave
Haggith.
"He's nowhere near the role of
[Raptors'] global ambassador and musician Drake," Haggith said, "but he has
got ties to the team and ties to the community and brings the two together."
Bhatia's parade turban carried the
Raptors' logo and the words "NBA
Champions 2019."
"I never dreamt in my dreams
that I'm going to be a grand marshal
of a two-million-plus-people parade,"
Bhatia said. "There were people in the
parade telling me their next car was
going to be a Hyundai from superfan
Nav Bhatia. It's good, but I never hand
out my business card."
But sports themes run through his
dealerships' multimedia marketing.
The banner emblazoned across his
Mississauga Hyundai website invites
shoppers to "get a super deal from the
superfan."
At the top-selling store is a prominent display just under the Hyundai
banner that reads, "Canada's #1
Volume Dealer." Inside, another banner features a running tally of vehicles sold.
"We are open seven days a week,

A superfan of giving back

NAV BHATIA IS USING HIS
success to help underprivileged
children. He spends about $300,000
a year on Raptors game tickets for
children in the Toronto and surrounding areas.
In July 2018, he started the Nav
Bhatia Superfan Foundation, aimed
at building or resurfacing basketball courts across Canada. The website offers a selection of merchandise,
such as bobbleheads and T-shirts bearing Bhatia's image. Proceeds also go
to camps for children in Canada and
around the world.
"I'm trying to use the game of basketball to bring the world together
through my foundation," Bhatia said.
"I'm trying to inspire underprivileged
and customers understand I am reachable," Bhatia said. "Customers know
they can talk to me anytime, and I
think it also helps to be the superfan."
He has forged relationships with
Raptors players - including the
team's first major star, Vince Carter
- who have helped generate business by attending promotional events
at his flagship Hyundai store in
Mississauga.
For sales volume, Bhatia has been
the No. 1 Hyundai dealer nationally or in Ontario since 2013, Romano
said. Bhatia also led all Genesis sales
in 2018, his first year as owner, and is
heading for a repeat performance this
year.

kids and give them hope."
An ambassador for children's
charity World Vision, Bhatia backed
a campaign to raise $200,000 to build
washrooms for girls in parts of India.
He also wants to raise awareness about Sikhs living in Canada
because of a racial-profiling incident
in 1998, when he entered a store and
a customer assumed he was a cab
driver.
Bhatia wants to break the stereotype.
"I want the community to know
Sikhs can become cab drivers, factory
workers, janitors," he said. "But they
can also be doctors, pharmacists, car
salesmen, dentists ... anything."
- Perry Lefko
In his first three months, Bhatia sold
a record 127 cars, an achievement that
would eventually lead to his promotion
to sales manager.
The key to Bhatia's success is his
unwavering devotion and optimism,
said Romano.
"If I could pick one word to
describe him, it's humility. We've
been through some difficult times
together, and now we are enjoying a
lot of success. But despite the ups and
downs in our business, Nav is always
up. He is always positive, even when
faced with adversity.
"And that's what makes him
the superfan of both the NBA and
Hyundai." - ANC

FROM TOUGH TIMES TO DREAM LIFE

Basketball figures prominently in Nav Bhatia's marketing. Relationships with
Raptors team players has also brought attention to his stores.
PHOTO: SCREEN GRAB

The 67-year-old native of India
embodies the Canadian dream. Bhatia
moved to Canada in 1984 after fleeing
the turmoil of his homeland, where
he said Sikhs were being "hunted and
massacred."
But he has faced his share of adversity in this country. When Bhatia
joined the sales staff at a Hyundai dealership in Toronto's Rexdale district,
he endured racial slurs and ostracism
from fellow employees. That made him
determined to work harder.

"Nav bleeds Hyundai blue," said
Hyundai Canada President Don
Romano, adding that his loyalty to the
brand has been unwavering.
PHOTO: PERRY LEFKO



Automotive News Canada - July 2019 - v2

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Automotive News Canada - July 2019 - v2

Automotive News Canada - July 2019 - v2 - Intro
Automotive News Canada - July 2019 - v2 - 1
Automotive News Canada - July 2019 - v2 - 2
Automotive News Canada - July 2019 - v2 - 3
Automotive News Canada - July 2019 - v2 - 4
Automotive News Canada - July 2019 - v2 - 5
Automotive News Canada - July 2019 - v2 - 6
Automotive News Canada - July 2019 - v2 - 7
Automotive News Canada - July 2019 - v2 - 8
Automotive News Canada - July 2019 - v2 - 9
Automotive News Canada - July 2019 - v2 - 10
Automotive News Canada - July 2019 - v2 - 11
Automotive News Canada - July 2019 - v2 - 12
Automotive News Canada - July 2019 - v2 - 13
Automotive News Canada - July 2019 - v2 - 14
Automotive News Canada - July 2019 - v2 - 15
Automotive News Canada - July 2019 - v2 - 16
Automotive News Canada - July 2019 - v2 - 17
Automotive News Canada - July 2019 - v2 - 18
Automotive News Canada - July 2019 - v2 - 19
Automotive News Canada - July 2019 - v2 - 20
Automotive News Canada - July 2019 - v2 - 21
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Automotive News Canada - July 2019 - v2 - 28
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