Leaner and greener: Top 50 CEO Hall of Famer Sean O’Regan shares his 2020 survival story

Posted on September 01, 2021 | by Alec Bruce | 0 Comments

Just thinking about the year that was—when the last thing public officials wanted anyone to do was drive—Halifax car dealer Sean O’Regan might easily begin to weep. But he’s not the type. He’d rather laugh. Or, at least, he does now.

“You can decide to go on a diet because your doctor says that if you don’t, you’re going to die,” he says. “Or, you can decide to do it on your own and live another six months. Either way, assuming you survive, you’re in a lot better position.”

Of course, any position was better than CEO and president of an auto dealership during the breaking months of the first global pandemic in living memory. For years, he’d been behind the wheel of one of the biggest and most successful car dealerships in Atlantic Canada, with more than 20 locations in Halifax, Dartmouth and Bridgewater. He’d earned numerous honours and accolades, including a Top 50 CEO Hall of Fame designation from Atlantic Business Magazine (2012).


Sean O’Regan, CEO and president of O’Regan’s Automotive Group


But when then-Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil told his fellow citizens to stay the blazes home in April 2020, O’Regan says, “from a sales function point of view, we were effectively closed, and from the service point of view, we didn’t know when we could open. It’s hard to wear out your car when it’s sitting in the garage.”

He wasn’t alone. Across North America, new car sales plummeted as people who’d managed to keep their jobs learned how to do them remotely through video chat and meeting platforms. For dealers, who once built whole careers on rock-steady demand and rising prices, the game had changed overnight. Suddenly, all cars were luxury items.

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