Celebrating 150 years of Winnipeg by Myron Love


The Murray Auto Group, which is just two years shy of Its 100th anniversary, is not only one of our province’s family-run auto dealers, second only in longevity to Ford dealer Metcalfe Garage in Treherne, which was founded in 1911, but also one of the largest and most successful dealerships in western Canada.

Currently, the Murray Group numbers 14 stores in its home province and another 16 throughout the other three western provinces. “Having multiple stores is like having an investment portfolio,” observes Dan Murray, dealer principal at Murray Chevrolet in the Waverley Auto Mall. “We are always looking to add more stores to our portfolio – but also sell those that aren’t the right fit.”

Dan and his brothers, Doug (in Brandon), Paul (Calgary) and Chris (Lethbridge) are the third generation to lead the family business. I have known the Murray Family for close to 30 years – in particular, Dan and Doug and their late father, Clare – and I can tell you that they are among the nicest people I have ever met.

The Murrays are the kind of people others love to work for. Murray Chevrolet in Winnipeg has been recognized many times over the years by General Motors for outstanding achievement, has consistently been ranked as one of Canada’s best managed companies, is and among Canada’s top employers as voted by the dealership’s own employees. Once a year, Dan and his general managers have an employee recognition lunch during which most employees are recognized for achievement in their fields as well as longevity with the store. Retired staff are regularly invited back for any celebratory events.

The Murray family and their many dealerships also generously support many activities in their communities. Examples would be large donations to Murray House in Brandon, Assiniboine Community College, The Brandon and Area Community Foundation, Ronald McDonald House in Winnipeg, Royal Canadian Air Museum, Nature Conservancy Canada, Ducks Unlimited, Samaritan House Brandon, Helping Hands Brandon, and more.

The Murray Group, the oldest GM franchisee in Canada, was founded by, A.A. (Andy) Murray in Souris in southwestern Manitoba in 1926. Originally a farm implement dealer, Andy soon began selling motor vehicles as well, specifically Star, Essex and Hudson models.

Now the fundamental need for any business to be able to continue in as a family-owned business is to have children in each new generation who are willing to assume leadership roles. Andy was fortunate to have three sons, Ewart, Clare and Del, who worked alongside him in the business.

In 1934, the family became General Motors dealers. The two older brothers concentrated on the automobile side of the business while Del looked after the farm implement side.

In 1960, Clare took the family’s first leap forward when he acquired Pontiac Buick GMC dealer Brandon Automobiles in Brandon. In 1971, he sold the Pontiac store and opened Murray Chevrolet Oldsmobile Cadillac also in Bandon.

“Dad loved the car business,” Dan says. “He was very much involved throughout his life, putting in seven days a week into his early 80s.”

Clare passed away in 2014 at the age of 89.

It was at the Murray Family flagship store where Dan and his brothers learned the business. Doug joined the company right out of university in 1980, and now he serves as dealer principal of the Brandon Chevrolet store.

Dan started at the Brandon store in 1984 and opened the first location in Oak Bluff in 1988. In 1994, he bought the former Carter Motors GM store in downtown Winnipeg. Four years later, he relocated the GM store to the newly opened Waverley Auto Mall at Waverley and Bishop Grandin.

Of course, relying only on family members to run a family business does limit one’s expansion possibilities. Dan notes that it was his Dad, Clare, who developed the system that has allowed the Murray Auto Group to overcome that limitation.

“Rather than putting general managers in charge of new dealerships when they were built or acquired, Dad offered long time management staff at our pre-existing stores the opportunity to become full partners in the new dealerships,” Dan points out.

The first such transaction came in 1986, when the Murray Family opened a new store in Portage la Prairie and partnered with the Murray Chev Brandon sales manager to operate the store.

Also key to the Murray group’s continued success in recent years, Dan notes, is the role that CFO Arthur Fast has played the past 25 years.

Certainly, the last four or five years have been challenging for auto dealers across the country. “We are living in uncertain times,” Dan observes. “The Covid-19 lockdowns led to ongoing inventory shortages. Manufacturers have been introducing more stipulations. And the slow uptake of electric vehicles creates uncertainty as to whether to invest in the upgrades we would need for an unpredictable EV future.

“Nonetheless, we remain optimistic about our future as evidenced by our recent acquisition as Shaganappi GM, Calgary’s largest MGM dealer.”

As well, the Murray Group is about two officially open its brand-new Genesis Winnipeg store. Genesis is Hyundai’s luxury line.

Dan Murray reports that the Murray Auto group is working on plans for a 100th anniversary celebration in two years time. “We are planning a big party,” Dan says. “We will be inviting all of our past present and future customers to come celebrate with us and allow us a chance to show our appreciation to loyal customers.”

Manitoba Lifestyles 55 salutes the Murray Group on this, Winnipeg’s150th birthday!