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Torch passed at city auto dealership

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Journal Staff

It isn’t every day an apprentice mechanic works his up to become president of an automotive company.

Yet it’s happened twice now at Lambton Motors, where the new president, Rob Ravensberg, has just been handed the reigns by the retiring one, Harold Hall.

‘It is rare,” Ravensberg said. “But having that kind of background is extremely valuable.”

When Hall entered the auto trade in 1960 cars were relatively simple machines that could be stripped down and reassembled with some basic tools.

“There were a lot of repairs done under a shady tree or in the home garage, which doesn’t happen much today,” Hall said.

“When I started (at Lambton Motors) in 1963, we actually had to bolt in the seatbelts because the law had just been changed.”

Hall rose through the service department to become manager, then in 1980 bought the growing dealership and expanded it further.

The company was founded in 1934, although its roots go back to 1910 when Ford began distributing cars in Sarnia.

Ravensberg, who also cut his teeth changing oil and fixing flats, had moved into sales when he joined the Ford dealership in 1998, initiating a succession plan that is now complete.

“I had a strong mechanical background and Rob had a real strength in sales. So between us, it’s been a great relationship,” Hall said.

Yesteryear’s auto mechanics have morphed into highly trained service technicians, who specialize with each automaker. In fact, their pay scale at Lambton Motors is determined by how many specialties they master, such as electrical, air conditioning, transmission, etc.

“It would be hard for anyone who’s been at it for any length of time to switch brands. You’d be throwing away a lot of education time, so they become much more brand-loyal,” Ravensberg said.

In the 1980s, Hall told a local magazine writer that advances in electronics and safety were about to make vehicles much more reliable, and their repairs more expensive, predictions that came true.

So where are cars headed now?

Hall believes driverless cars are an impending reality. Some already park themselves, he noted, and manufacturers are adding more drive-assist features like lanes sensors that engage the steering wheel when a problem is detected.

“I think it’s going to be here a lot quicker than we realize, he said.

Ravensberg foresees more gas-electric hybrids on the road. Fully electric cars lack the necessary range and number of charging stations to make them practical outside of major cities, at least in the short term, he said.

“I think the combustion engine will continue to be around for a while. We’re already getting fuel mileage up to 50-60 miles per gallon on some small cars.”































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