Three Men, Three Generations and Over 65 Years: The History of Sisley Motors Ltd.
The Sisley family has been involved in the retail automotive sales business since at least 1924. We know this because Max Sisley, the founder of Sisley Motors Limited and grandfather to Hugh Sisley, the company's current President, was given a gold pocket watch in 1934 as a token of appreciation for his ten years of service to the Packard Motor Company.
When World War Two broke out five years later, Max, like so many other Canadians, put his career on hold so that he could serve his country. Upon returning from the war in 1946, he approached Chrysler about opening his own dealership. They agreed and M. M. Sisley Ltd. was born on the grounds of a rented coal yard gatehouse, located in Lansing, Ontario now known as the intersection of Yonge Street and Sheppard Avenue. Today, that site is 4900 Yonge Street, home to the Canadian Federal Government's Joseph Sheppard Building. Here, he had only one vehicle to show potential customers and a stack of brochures to distribute, but hard work and perseverance turned Max's entrepreneurial endeavour into a growing business. He soon bought a nearby apple orchard (now 4709 Yonge Street, home of Proctor and Gamble's Canadian head office) to which he relocated the dealership. Business was still lean, however, so he added Texaco gasoline pumps to help pay for the new premises. Two years later, Max's health had begun to suffer so his son Don dropped out of high school during the twelfth grade in order to help him run the business. In another three years, Max suffered a stroke and Don suddenly went from apprentice to proprietor.
By 1958, Don had determined that small cars were the way of the future and replaced the dealership's Chrysler vehicles with those manufactured by American Motors. The Rambler model, a small four-door car, was especially popular. Thus, the company changed its name to Sisley for Rambler and enjoyed steady growth as such. During this time, the dealership also experimented with the Renault Dauphine, France's answer to the popular Volkswagen Beatle. According to Don's wife, Peggy, it was a wonderful car but had not been built for Canadian winters and therefore wouldn't start in the cold. Therefore, Don discontinued selling it after only one year. This venture was followed by attempts to sell the British-made Austin Mini in 1961, and the German Amphicar in 1962. Unfortunately, neither of these models proved any more successful for him than the Renault.
Undeterred by these fruitless experiments, Don continued to believe that small cars were the future market and in 1968, he tweaked his prophecy: not only were small cars the future, but small Japanese cars in particular. He swapped American Motors out for Datsun models (which you now know as Nissan) and the necessary company name changes ensued. It is worth noting that Don's dealership was the first full-fledged Datsun dealer in Eastern Canada, speaking to his forward-thinking nature. There is no sleep for the restless, though. Come 1977, Don made yet another adjustment to the products available through his company, though this would be the final time. That year he changed manufacturers from Datsun to Honda. Ever since then, Sisley for Honda has been one of the highest volume Honda dealers in Canada.
Changing products is only one way in which we have adapted to consumers' needs, having also moved locations and constantly updated our facilities to better serve our customers. In the mid-1970s, the intersection of Yonge and Sheppard underwent significant development, causing Don to sell his property and relocate the business once again in 1981 to 6167 Yonge Street, just south of Steeles.
In 1983, Don's son, Hugh, joined the company. He began his career as a used car salesperson but Don was anxious to get him involved in all aspects of the business and constantly changed Hugh's role. In 1987, Don appointed him as the General Manager. Then in 1993, at the age of 35, Hugh took the dealership over from his father as Don had done before him. Hugh continued to grow the business and soon found that their facilities were not adequate for the volume of vehicles being sold and serviced on a daily basis. In 2002, Hugh built the facility that the company currently occupies at 88 Steeles Avenue West. While now over ten years old, it remains an industry leading, state-of-the-art facility.
Here, three generations, four locations and nearly three quarters of a century later, Hugh upholds the same values that his grandfather and father prized before him: quality, customer satisfaction and, most importantly, family, because Sisley Motors Ltd. is more than just a business, it's a part of our Sisley heritage.