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Comment by Neil Dowling and John Mellor

GM HOLDEN is standing behind its dealership awards programs despite the awards being classed as “no longer relevant” by some sacked dealers.

The Grand Master and Chairman’s Awards are handed out annually to up to 32 dealers who achieve benchmark criteria in departments including sales, service and parts.

They are effectively a public endorsement by GM of the high standards the winning dealers have achieved and an indicator of the valued role winning dealers have within the Holden retail network.

But the industry was shocked when Metro Holden in Adelaide, one of Holden’s most-awarded dealers, was sacked in 2017.

Metro Holden had won the Grand Master award 18 times and was even a Grand Master dealer last year. It also recorded sales in 2017 that placed it fourth in Australia.

The sacking led to an unsuccessful court bid aimed at being reinstated, during which the judge in the case questioned during the hearing why Holden would sack such an award-winning dealer.

Former Holden dealers – who do not wish to be named – have said the awards showed Holden paid little attention to the success of its dealers.

“It’s a case of paying lip service to dealers when, despite getting awards on a regular basis, they lose their franchise,” said one.

Asked by GoAutoNews Premium at the recent launch of the new imported Holden Commodore about why GM would sack and awarded-winning dealer, GM Holden president and CEO Mark Bernhard replied that the reduction of its dealers was not based on performance but on location.

“Clearly any rationalisation is really tough,” he said.

“You are dealing with real people and their businesses. We took the view based on where the volumes were and unfortunately it meant that we didn’t need as many dealers as before.

“It was a robust review and that has all finished now.”

The exact number of sacked dealers was not available from Holden with staff saying only “about 30” were included on the hit list.

“It doesn’t put the programs into doubt,” he said of the Grand Masters and Chairman’s Awards events.

“As I said it was a robust review that wasn’t based on performance but on where we needed the right dealer to sustain the volume that we see in the future.

“There will be no change to the awards now or into the future.”

In 2016, Mr Bernhard was on record as saying: “the 2015 Grand Masters winners have delivered exceptional results in all areas of the business and demonstrated an outstanding ongoing commitment to serving our customers.”

Comment by Neil Dowling and John Mellor