Women Driven Spotlight: Lina Policaro

Thirteen years ago, Lina Policaro made a career change.

After graduating from university, Policaro had built a successful career in the fashion and entertainment industry, alternating between New York and Toronto. But after 10 years, she was ready for a new challenge. Her father, Paul Policaro, offered her an opportunity to work in the family car business, and she accepted.

“I was no stranger to the car business,” says Policaro, General Manager at Northwest Lexus and the only woman GM at a Lexus franchise in Canada. “I come from a large car family. As a teen, I’d worked at my father’s dealership during summer months, as a receptionist, in the service department, and as a car jockey.”

By the time Policaro began working at one of the Policaro Group dealerships, Policaro Acura in 2011, she had developed a strong work ethic and a successful track record in marketing and management. At Policaro Acura, she began on the sales floor and in the finance department, and then she moved into management positions and eventually to General Manager.

“Many of the skills I acquired while working in other industries were transferrable to the car industry,” says Policaro, one of five recipients of the 2023 Women Driven Leadership Awards. “Those skills included forming strongly motivated teams, maintaining relationships with clients and partners, and managing a diverse workload of responsibilities.”

Although the retail car business is different than the fashion and entertainment industries, both industries are ‘people’ businesses. “We sell and service luxury automobiles, but the foundation of our business is people,” says Policaro. “Our business is primarily driven by our customers, our employees, our suppliers and our partners.”

Northwest Lexus is part of the Policaro Group which represents seven luxury automobile brands in southern Ontario.  In 2023, the Group earned the coveted Canada’s Best Managed Companies accolade for the second consecutive year. The award recognizes a company’s business practices and management skills.

Policaro believes in the importance of education and ongoing learning. While she was managing a dealership, she attended and graduated from the prestigious NADA Academy, Dealership Management program in November 2014. “This industry is continuously evolving, and we need to be learning all the time in order to better serve our customers and to stay competitive.”

Throughout her career, Policaro has had been a strong advocate for mentorship. She has benefited from several great mentors (including her father and uncles, Basil and Tony Policaro) who have provided guidance and advice as she advanced in her career. Conversely, she has provided mentorship for employees who aspire to advance their own careers. “Women approach me all the time, and I’m happy to support and advise them, or just to be a sounding board. We promote from within whenever possible and we have an open door policy.”

During her time working in automotive, Policaro has seen more women enter the business and find success in all areas of a dealership. “I’m proud to say that 30 per cent of employees at Policaro Group are female and in management positions, compared to the industry average of 21 per cent,” says Policaro. “There has certainly been an increased awareness of – and a shift towards – greater gender diversity in the automotive workforce, and in particular the diverse skill sets that women bring to the table.”

Policaro applauds the efforts of the auto industry in striving for greater gender parity, especially the MVRO with its Women Driven initiatives. “I am honoured to have won a Women Driven Award for leadership,” she says. “This award means a lot to me personally. Celebrating the achievements and leadership roles of women in automotive sends a powerful message to younger women who may not be aware of the opportunities that exist in our industry.”    

The Women Driven Leadership Award is presented to individuals who demonstrate a strong commitment to the Women Driven Mission statement: amplifying women to thrive within automotive careers while cultivating a community of inspiration, innovation, inclusiveness and equity.

 What advice does Policaro have for women or men who are considering a career in the car business? “This is a fun, exciting and unpredictable business,” she says. “I would advise students interested in automotive to speak to their guidance counsellors, contact post-secondary schools that offer automotive programs, and reach out to people who work in the industry. Whatever your gender, whatever your background, there’s a rewarding career awaiting you in the auto industry.”

When she’s not working, Policaro enjoys spending time with her close-knit family and volunteering at various Toronto charitable and arts initiatives.

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