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AUTORAMA

URBAN HERO: Nasser Rad gives away cars and hope

2017 Urban Hero winner – Business category, People's Choice

Nasser Rad can’t solve all your problems, but he can provide you with a free ride.

Through his used car dealership Autorama, Rad gives away vehicles to individuals and families unable to afford the expense. Through an online vote, he was selected as a 2017 Metroland Media Toronto Urban Hero in the field of Business.

“We try to make one of their problems go away,” said Rad about the free car program for which he was honoured. “The main consideration is; can we help someone?”

The program started in 2015, when Rad and his staff at the dealership sought a way to offer direct assistance to people in need, beyond a monetary donation. As of September, Autorama has awarded 10 free cars. Past Care to Share winners include a young Ajax woman who overcame a learning disability and bullying, to get into college and needed a vehicle to get to her summer job, counselling kids with developmental challenges. Other recipients are single mothers, new Canadians and others who could use a little bit of help.

Rad can relate.

Having arrived in Canada from Iran 27 years ago as a refugee with no money and only obstacles to success. Today, Autorama generates some $20 million in sales annually, has an inventory of 12,000 cars at its North York location and employs 20.

Every applicant is thoroughly interviewed and vetted by staff members working on their own time. In order not to influence the process, Rad doesn’t get involved until the very end.

Each winner undergoes a special “ceremony” for which everyone at Autorama pitches in to get the vehicle ready. Every car must be certified for safety, cleaned and prepared. These are not $20,000 luxury rides, but practical vehicles durable, well-maintained and 100 per cent ready for the road. Applicants pay nothing out of pocket, save insurance. Each winner is treated like a regular customer.

Being in a position to help others acts as validation for Rad’s decision to immigrate to this country, he said.

“I wasn’t able to afford a car and now I can give them away for free,” he said. “This could only happen in Canada.”

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