2013 update: A lawsuit alleging fraud, racketeering, and other claims, was filed against Inder Dosanjh, multiple GM and GMAC/Ally employees, and their respective employing corporations. The complaint, filed on February 25, 2013 by two former East Bay GM dealers, may be viewed here.
For understanding of the unbelievable development of Inder Dosanjh’s San Francisco East Bay Empire, please see the Home Page of this website at donsigner.com.
THE INSTANT GM DEALERSHIP EMPIRE OF INDER DOSANJH
As previously noted in other sections of this website, GM awarded the franchises it confiscated from me, as well as GMC that it repeatedly denied me, to Inder Dosanjh. He was the factory-sponsored dealer who happened to be in place at the time that GM finally successfully engineered my demise after eleven years of attempts, which included resignation of the first, replacement of the second, and failure of the third of GM’s appointed operators of Fremont Pontiac-GMC that closed in January 2009. These ill-fated appointees had been GM’s intended recipients of my franchises if GM’s venture there had not failed. However, Mr. Dosanjh’s entry on the scene was different than the predecessors in that he, with seemingly unlimited support by GM, would build an instant empire in a manner I have never seen in the industry. As such, I have researched the mysterious meteoric rise of this person who now possesses the franchises I opened from scratch 29 years earlier, only to have them stolen from me by GM. In the following, I will describe the background leading up to Mr. Dosanjh’s receiving of my franchises, as well as information obtained from internet sources.
According to IndUS Business Journal, Mr. Dosanjh emigrated from his home in Punjab, India, to the United States in 1976, and later was hired as a mechanic by Central Valley Automotive, a dealership in Modesto, California. Over the years he worked his way up until he became one-third owner of the dealership in 1997. In 2003 he sold his share and, with the financial backing of GM’s Motors Holding Division, bought Saturn dealerships in Concord and Pleasanton. Six months later GM awarded him a Hummer franchise for Pleasanton at a time when Hummer was among the most lucrative franchises in the industry. In June 2004, also with Motors Holding’s financial investment, he bought two Oakland dealerships and combined them into one selling Chevrolet, Buick-Pontiac-GMC, and Cadillac.
The fourteen-month, seven dealership spending spree
Since the IndUS article was written in November 2005, Mr. Dosanjh sold the Oakland dealership in early 2008 and then purchased Saturn of Oakland and Saturn of Fremont (in Newark), which he took over in April. He closed the Oakland Saturn point when he bought it. Although I have not seen documentation, it is my understanding that all of the GM dealerships Mr. Dosanjh purchased were financed by GM’s Motors Holding Division, which becomes an equity partner with the dealer and controls voting stock.
The Dosanjh/Motors Holding April 2008 Saturn dealership purchase was the beginning of a mysterious series of events at dizzying speed. In the fourteen months from April 2008 to May 2009, Mr. Dosanjh acquired numerous GM dealerships in a spending spree like I have never seen by even the most experienced and well-financed individual dealers during my 39 years as a GM dealer in Fremont-Newark and Oregon. Aside from the mystery of seemingly endless investment funds Mr. Dosanjh apparently accumulated in the worst economic times in modern history it is very curious why he would put so many eggs in the basket of a troubled corporation that has demonstrated itself to be much less than dealer-friendly.
All seven of those acquisitions are in the East Bay Area, including all of the GM dealerships in my Southern Alameda County market, except mine until GM confiscated my franchises. Following is a list of acquisitions of which I am aware, including Buick-GMC-Cadillac in Honolulu in November 2009, and my dealership in November 2010:
Month Acquired Franchise(s) Location Former Dealership/Owner
April 2008* Saturn Oakland Saturn of Oakland/Tony Batarse-John Cross
April 2008** Saturn Newark Saturn of Fremont/Tony Batarse-John Cross
Sept/Oct 2008 Chev/Cadillac Dublin Crown Chevrolet-Cadillac/Pat Costello
Oct 2008*** Chevrolet Hayward Hayward Chevrolet/Bud Allan
January 2009 Chevrolet Fmt/Nwk/Fmt Central Chevrolet/Brunelli family
April 2009 B-P-G Dublin Dublin B-P-G/Ken Okenquist
May 2009 Chevrolet Concord Fitzpatrick Chev/Fitzpatrick family
Nov 2009 B-G-Cadillac Honolulu, HI Pflueger GM/Pflueger Auto Group
Nov 2010**** B-G-Cadillac Newark Signer Buick-Cad/Don Signer,
& Fremont Pont-GMC /Ken Okenquist
Nov 2011***** Chevrolet Livermore Groth Brothers Chevrolet/Robin Groth-Hill
* Closed April 2008 at time of purchase
** Closed January 2009
*** Closed August 2009 (see “Hayward Chevrolet purchased in 17 days”)
**** GM had planned Dosanjh takeover of Signer’s franchises since June 2008, or possibly earlier. GMC franchise is from Ken Okenquist’s Fremont Pontiac-GMC, which closed in January 2009. GM used its U. S. Treasury-backed 2009 bankruptcy to confiscate Signer franchises, which it in turn gave to Dosanjh after technical end of Signer franchises on 10/31/10.
***** Closed November 2011 at time of purchase. Dosanjh purchased Groth assets in bankrupty court.
A timeline chart showing the rise and fall of Mr. Okenquist’s and Mr. Dosanjh’s GM-funded dealerships may be viewed here. Their franchises are added to the Signer Buick-Cadillac timeline to illustrate the ineptitude of GM’s business decisions.
Signer and other Fremont/Newark GM franchises destined for Dosanjh
When Mr. Dosanjh purchased Saturn of Fremont (in Newark,) which he took over approximately April 1, 2008, the name of the owning corporation was “Fremont Automotive Retailing Group, Inc,” which was formed on March 20, 2008. Since Saturn was the only franchise Mr. Dosanjh owned in Fremont/Newark, the term “group” leaves no doubt that other franchises were destined for Mr. Dosanjh from the beginning. Shortly after Mr. Dosanjh bought Saturn of Fremont in April 2008, I began receiving multiple reports that employees of that dealership were informing the public that the dealership would be “taking over” my Cadillac franchise. The first known comment was in June 2008 when a Saturn of Fremont manager stated to a customer that Cadillac would not be renewing my franchise in 2010. I was informed of this at a later date by Signer service customer Mike Anderson, who said that Saturn manager “Chris” (most likely Sales Manager Sims) had made that comment to him when he ordered a Saturn hybrid. This is astounding, as the non-renewal ultimately happened as a result of GM’s bankruptcy. It would seem that Mr. Sims’ comment could only have come through Mr. Dosanjh’s inner circle status within GM.
Later in 2008, as it became increasingly likely that Fremont Pontiac-GMC and the rest of Ken Okenquist’s dealerships would close, the “takeover” rumors out of Saturn of Fremont expanded to include Pontiac-GMC and my Buick franchise. On July 31, 2008, Mr. Dosanjh’s partner, Rick Corso, Jr., came to my dealership unannounced. I brought him into the sales office where he brashly asked me if I wanted to sell. As this office is frequented by salespeople who could have overheard the question, I immediately took him to my office where replied that I did not want to sell, and also expressed my displeasure for his asking the question in the semi-public sales office. Considering the rude and inconsiderate action, it seems that he asked it there in order to fan the flames of “takeover” statements coming from Saturn of Fremont.
In August 2008, GM and Mr. Dosanjh presented their Fremont Auto Mall plan to the Fremont Planning Commission, with Mr. Dosanjh to build a Saturn/undisclosed brand combination facility. (The undisclosed brand’s facility design was obviously Chevrolet.) The Auto Mall plan included an adjoining site for a second facility for undisclosed brands, but obviously to eventually house Buick-Pontiac-GMC-Cadillac once GM had engineered my, and Mr. Okenquist’s, demise. See Expanded Details: “(2007-2008) GM Buys Fremont Auto Mall Property; City Council Chastises GM About Signer Treatment; 2nd IRS Audit.”
As GM had originally planned for Mr. Okenquist to get my franchises and operate the planned Auto Mall facility, it became apparent that GM determined that one of the two “fair-haired boys” would have to go. So GM simply let Mr. Okenquist go broke rather than rescue him as it had done once before when it recapitalized at least one of his dealerships in about 2006. GMAC assisted GM in its efforts to rid itself of Mr. Okenquist by placing floorplan (inventory financing) pressures on Fremont Pontiac-GMC, and possibly his other dealerships. These actions were similar to what I would later learn were done to Groth Brothers Chevrolet. With Mr. Okenquist’s demise a foregone conclusion, and my demise in process by GM, Mr. Dosanjh would then have everything.
In January 2009, Mr. Dosanjh closed his Saturn franchise in Newark, and was simultaneously awarded the franchise GM had bought from 75-year family dealer Central Chevrolet. Mr. Dosanjh opened Fremont Chevrolet in the Newark Saturn facility in mid-January, immediately after Saturn was terminated. On January 27, 2009, Ken Okenquist closed Fremont Pontiac-GMC. Two days later on January 29, with one remaining Newark dealership down and one to go, a banner appeared in front of Fremont Chevrolet stating “WE SERVICE ALL MAKES,” followed by a list of all GM brands, including Buick and Cadillac. This was just one more weapon used by GM/Dosanjh to engineer my demise.
On January 24, 2009, a sales consultant who had been with my dealership since 1994, gave me two weeks notice of his resignation, and informed me that he would be going to work for Fremont Chevrolet that just opened. I advertised for a replacement, and hired two sales consultants who just lost their jobs when Fremont Pontiac-GMC closed. During the next few days, we had intense discussions about my departing sales consultant wanting to take the list of my customers he had sold vehicles to. At Fremont Chevrolet, he would be able to sell vehicles from Mr. Dosanjh’s other dealerships, which included Cadillacs he could get from Dublin. On February 6, the day before his last day with me, the departing sales consultant told me he would like to stay with me. I replied that I had hired two people already, and didn’t need one more. I obviously wasn’t happy with him that he would leave me to work for such a disreputable dealership. The following week he told me that Fremont Chevrolet retracted its job offer; he then added, “The dealership is not ethical.” So, everybody lost. I had heard from three other GM dealers that Mr. Dosanjh’s dealerships had done similar things to them, stealing employees seemingly just to damage the competitor, and then in some cases terminating the employees shortly after hiring them.
On June 1, 2009, GM Fedexed to dealers it terminated in its bankruptcy a letter informing them of the action. The terms would allow the dealership to remain in business, if the dealer wished, until October 31, 2010, although new vehicles could not be ordered. Dealers who wished to remain open were required to sign a “Wind Down” Agreement that was required to be Fedexed to Detroit to arrive no later than June 12. I Fedexed mine on June 11, 2012. On June 12, 2009, at 8:32 AM Pacific time (11:32 AM Eastern time), a Detroit GM employee signed a FedEx receipt for a package that contained my signed confidential “Wind Down” agreement for franchise termination under GM’s bankruptcy. At approximately 11:00 AM, in eerie “coincidence” less than three hours after GM’s receipt of that agreement, Rick Corso, Jr., Mr. Dosanjh’s Fremont Chevrolet partner visited me to inquire about purchasing my special tools. Special tools are designed for specific GM vehicle brands, in my case Buick and Cadillac, and required for dealers with the franchise(s). Due to the fact that Mr. Corso and Mr. Dosanjh would be the people to whom GM had chosen to give the franchises it stole from me, I did not dignify his request with any discussion of sale of the tools.
In the course of the conversation with Mr. Corso, I asked him where the money had come from for Mr. Dosanjh’s instant empire. He replied that Mr. Dosanjh had sold his interest in Central Valley Automotive for $35 million, and had a copy of the check displayed on the wall of his office. According to IndUS Business Journal, Mr. Dosanjh was one-third owner of the Central Valley business for just 6 years. I later learned from Robin Groth-Hill, owner of Groth Brothers Chevrolet in Livermore, that Mr. Dosanjh had told her that he had received $15 million for the Central Valley stock. Pat Costello, former owner of Crown Chevolet-Cadillac in Dublin whose dealership Mr. Dosanjh bought, told me that Mr. Dosanjh had told him he received $25 million. Although I have no way to confirm the figure, I have since heard from a reliable source that Mr. Dosanjh actually received slightly under $1 million for his one-third ownership of the Central Valley group – an amount that sounds reasonable.
On August 3, 2009, I happened to notice an ad that rotated at the bottom of the listing of an autotrader.com used vehicle online listing. I don’t know how long the ads had been running before I noticed them. The rotating ads showed three dealerships, each accompanied by a picture of a Cadillac:
- Fremont Chevrolet-Cadillac
- Concord Chevrolet-Cadillac
- Dublin Chevrolet-Cadillac
Upon seeing the ads, which may be viewed here, I contacted Rick Corso at Fremont Chevrolet and demanded that he remove the ad, as it is strictly illegal for a dealer to advertise a franchise he or she does not own. I also contacted Autotrader. As a result, the ad was promptly removed. I also subsequently notified a manager at Michael Stead Chevrolet-Cadillac in Walnut Creek, which is adjacent to Concord. He then notified General Motors and Autotrader and demanded that the ad be removed, which was done promptly. While disregarding laws or any common courtesy, the addition of “Cadillac” to the names of the Fremont and Concord Chevrolet stores gives further clear insight of GM/Dosanjh’s intentions for my and Mr. Stead’s Cadillac franchises. Mr. Stead’s Chevrolet and Cadillac franchises were similarly terminated in GM’s bankruptcy. In addition to the known intent for my franchises, GM’s obvious intent for Mr. Stead’s Cadillac franchise was to award it to Mr. Dosanjh in his newly acquired Concord Chevrolet facility. GM’s plan was to close the Walnut Creek Chevrolet point, as it was an unwanted competitor to Mr. Dosanjh’s Concord Chevrolet store, and to a lesser extent, his Dublin store. In a Congressionally-mandated arbitration made available in Spring 2010, Mr. Stead was able to salvage his Cadillac franchise, but not Chevrolet. As a result, GM was not able to award Cadillac to Mr. Dosanjh in Concord, but the Walnut Creek Chevrolet point was closed.
In December 2009, Fremont City Council Member Anu Natarajan informed me that Mr. Dosanjh had recently told her that he would be receiving my franchise(s). In April 2010, I was informed by two Newark dealers, Fremont Ford dealer Steve Hallock, and Winn VW dealer John Nguyen, that they had been told that Mr. Dosanjh would soon open with Buick-Cadillac-GMC in the now empty former Saturn facility two doors down from my empty facility, presumably waiting for my franchises to officially terminate on October 31, 2010. He will reportedly then construct a new facility on GM’s Fremont Auto Mall property purchased in 2007, then relocate upon completion. GM’s plan was to build on 3.6 acres of the 9.1 acres it owns, so the land and facility would most likely have a total cost of $7 – $9 million. This would be spent while three perfectly suitable and relatively new GM facilities sat empty on my street, one of which GM already owns (Saturn.) In July 2010, GMAC sold the foreclosed Pontiac-GMC facility for an astoundingly low $2,000,000, less than half of the $4,100,000 it cost to build in 1994. The sale price works out to $10.51 per square foot for the land, and no value for the facility or other improvements. As this sale price establishes the worthlessness of the perfectly good 13-year old Saturn facility and my facility GM demanded I build, there is no way that GM/Mr. Dosanjh could justify spending the additional millions on yet another new facility for the low expected volume of Buick-GMC-Cadillac.
As if GM’s actions with me couldn’t become more bizarre, on July 29, 2010, it sent requests for proposals for the reopening of my Buick and Cadillac franchises, as well the GMC franchise that GM repeatedly denied me. According to GM representative Herman Caruthers, ten such letters were sent, including one to me. The request for proposal exercise was an obvious sham in response to an e-mail I had sent to Congress on July 23. See Expanded Details: (2009-2010) GM Files BK & Terminates Signer, Offers Sham “Opportunity”; Dosanjh Gets Signer Franchises for appalling details. The e-mail I sent to the House of Representatives Oversight Committee may be viewed here as well as in the aforementioned Expanded Details section. It describes what appears to be GM/Dosanjh’s plan for takeover of the GM East Bay Market.
In yet another extremely strange development, in July 2010, Jim Gentry, the aforementioned Regional Network Planning representative, left General Motors after twenty-four years to become employed in August by Mr. Dosanjh as Chief Financial Officer of the dealership group. Mr. Gentry’s position in GM’s Western Region since 2004 caused him to be involved with dealership transactions to achieve GM’s Project 2000 dealership channel plan, largely combining Buick, Pontiac, and GMC into single dealership operations. He also was instrumental in assembling Mr. Dosanjh’s East Bay acquisitions beginning in 2008. Additionally, as noted earlier, Mr. Gentry helped create and execute GM’s Fremont Auto Mall project beginning in late 2004, and was co-leader of the exit-inducement team that engineered my demise from 2005 until the time GM went broke in 2009. He was also a great admirer of Mr. Okenquist until a few months before he went broke in January 2009. The fact that Mr. Gentry joined Mr. Dosanjh’s instant East Bay GM empire, the one he helped create in his GM position, raises many questions.
On August 28, 2010, General Motors sponsored an “Open House” at two dealerships in the Bay Area: Lehmer’s Buick-GMC in Concord and Dublin Chevrolet-Cadillac in Dublin. The publicized event was intended for the public to test drive GM vehicles and then share their impressions directly with GM management and engineers who were visiting from Detroit. I decided to stop by each dealership to see what GM managers were attending that I might know. I first stopped by Dublin where the first person I encountered was Jim Gentry, who was in conversation with a Detroit member of Cadillac management. Mr. Gentry and I said hello to each other, and I met the Cadillac executive. Mr. Gentry confirmed that he had just joined Mr. Dosanjh’s company as his CFO after 24 years with GM, and after a few minutes left the conversation while I remained with the Cadillac executive. A few minutes later, Inder Dosanjh approached me and introduced himself while taking me out the front door literally by the hand. Once outside he said, “Get the f… out” while walking me in the direction of the exit of the property. I responded that I would leave without a problem, but asked what I did to cause that. He said, “Slander.” I asked what I said, to which he responded, “Have you seen the website?” Assuming he meant my website, I answered that I had. He then repeated, “Get the f… out” as he continued to escort me toward the end of the property. I told him I was leaving and he didn’t need to walk me out. Ignoring my statement he continued to walk with me, uttering at least four additional times, “Get the f… out” until we reached the end of the property more than 400 feet from where we started. He watched me walk across the street, get in my car and drive away.
Mr. Dosanjh could easily have asked me, in a dignified manner, to leave, which would have achieved the same result. In light of the fact that he would be receiving my franchises that GM had taken from me, he could have said something about the fact that my presence made it awkward for him, and then politely asked me to please leave. Had he done so, I would have gladly left, and would have respected the way he asked me. As this was the first time I had met him, a polite encounter would have at least partially offset the multitude of negative things I had heard about him from countless people. But instead, his action was consistent with everything I had heard about him, and gave me first hand reason to dislike him in conjunction with nearly everybody else who has told me anything about him.
In mid-2010, Mr. Dosanjh terminated Phil Brecher, his general manager/investor in Dublin Chevrolet-Cadillac. In early 2011, Mr. Dosanjh terminated Ernie Guajardo, his general manager/investor in his Hawaii Buick-GMC-Cadillac dealership and the predecessor Saturn dealership. In July 2011, Mr. Dosanjh terminated Fremont Chevrolet general manager/investor Rick Corso, the aforementioned person who had approached me in 2008 and 2009 about buying my dealership, then my special tools. All of the terminations were accompanied by extreme acrimony and legal disputes, and led to settlements that apparently included clauses to prevent the terminated individuals from discussing anything about the past or Mr. Dosanjh.
It should be noted that in calendar year 2011, Mr. Dosanjh’s Fremont Cadillac sales volume ranked dead last among all Bay Area Cadillac dealers, and Buick volume ranked next to last among Buick dealers. Through October 2012, the performance is the same. Sickeningly, GM destroyed everything I ever worked for to achieve this performance.
The role of GM’s Motors Holding Division
Mr. Dosanjh’s buying spree and apparent ”inner circle” status could possibly be explained by the Motors Holding page on GM’s website, gm.com. Motors Holding Division of General Motors was initially formed in 1929 to assist individual dealer candidates in getting started in business, and then lead to the dealer’s eventual outright owning of the business. The website shows that Motors Holding’s role has expanded, with the division now providing investment capital for a variety of needs, with a list of four common ones, two of which are the following:
- “Dealers Buying Additional Stores or Relocating: To supplement capital available to an existing dealership to facilitate either the relocation of the dealership operations or the realignment of the brand channel in support of General Motors corporate network development initiatives.”
- “Diversity Candidates: To supplement capital available to qualified diversity candidates in support of corporate efforts to achieve diversity in its dealer network.”
As GM has long desired to have factory stores, but has been blocked by state franchise laws, it would appear that the first one of the above two categories could be engineered to bring GM very close to its goal of controlling a market with a single dealer principal of its choosing. Since GM’s Motors Holding controls all voting stock, Motors Holding could oust a dealer at any time, as it demonstrated with Bob Gee, who challenged the action’s legality. As governments generally encourage diversity, the “diversity candidates” clause presents a good image to governments, as well as diverts attention from the borderline factory store business structure. It thus appears to me that GM uses the Motors Holding approach to circumvent state laws barring factory-owned stores.
The California New Motor Vehicle Board (NMVB,) a state regulatory agency for the automotive industry, requires that manufacturers provide it notice of California dealerships that they have a financial interest in. These dealerships are “dealer development” businesses, which is the NMVB’s generic term for manufacturers’ programs like GM’s Motors Holding Division. As required by law, manufacturers provide annual reports to the NMVB of dealer development businesses in which they have an investment as of the beginning of the year.
GM’s Motors Holding Division reports for the years 2005-2012 may be viewed here. These reports reveal that the Motors Holding dealership corporations operated by Mr. Dosanjh (California Automotive Retailing Group and Oakland Automotive Center) appear on the 2005-2008 reports, all dated January 31 of the year. These represent Saturn dealerships in Concord and Pleasanton, Hummer in Pleasanton, and Chevrolet-Buick-Pontiac-GMC-Cadillac in Oakland. Between January 31, 2008 and January 31, 2009, Mr. Dosanjh/Motors Holding divested themselves of these dealerships, and Mr. Dosanjh began his spending spree for other dealerships as described above.
Mr. Dosanjh’s dealerships no longer appeared after the January 31, 2008 report, even though his California Automotive Retailing Group continues to operate some of his dealerships. This disappearance from the list is extremely mysterious, as it was in 2008 that Mr. Dosanjh began expanding his empire exponentially during an economic time when the dealerships he closed or sold that year presumably were losing money as most GM dealerships were. As the newly acquired dealerships were of larger volume than the divested dealerships, they would obviously require even more operating capital. Yet, none of the dealerships in Mr. Dosanjh’s instant empire ever appeared on the annual NMVB reports. As it is extremely unlikely that Mr. Dosanjh suddenly acquired the many millions of dollars needed, it would seem that GM is funding the empire in some subversive manner outside Motors Holding in order to circumvent the NMVB reporting requirement, and thus reduce the appearance of factory-owned dealerships.
Adding to the funding mystery is an article that appeared June 2, 2009, the day after General Motors filed bankruptcy. The article, which may be viewed here, in part discusses Mr. Dosanjh’s empire. The article states, “Dosanjh is fortunate, and he knows it. He had on tap the “millions and millions” needed to restructure in the face of GM’s meltdown.” If the dubious statement about Mr. Dosanjh’s wealth were true, the money could only have come in one of two ways: 1. He had the money before his first Saturn venture in 2003. If this were the case, he wouldn’t have needed Motors Holding investment from the beginning. 2. He made unprecedented miraculous profits in his dealerships after 2003. However, if this were the case, he would have bought out Motors Holding per its formula in the good years before GM sales, and dealer profits, began their severe decline in 2007.
It should also be noted that two other seemingly factory-controlled dealership groups appeared on the NMVB lists. Ken Okenquist’s four-dealership group (Golden State Motors) appeared each year until it dropped off the January 31, 2009 list. Mr. Okenquist/Motors Holding had closed the dealerships in late 2008 and January 2009. Also, the five-dealership San Fernando Valley Automotive appeared on the list each year until it dropped off the January 31, 2010 list.
Google search provides insight
When Mr. Dosanjh came to Newark, I knew little about this relative newcomer on the GM scene who I understood would apparently receive the franchise(s) to which I have dedicated my career, and sell them out of the Fremont Auto Mall I co-developed. As such, I did some internet research at the time, and checked back as time went on. A Google search reveals a number of interesting items that jump out. Those that get my attention are:
- Political contributions: Among other contributions, $5,000 donated to the Jerry Brown for Attorney General 2010 campaign on May 23, 2009, nine days before GM’s bankruptcy filing.
- Publicly-stated GM support: On July 27, 2009, a City of Concord staff report points to GM’s confidence in Mr. Dosanjh’s dealership company, and in his future as a dominant dealer in GM’s network. The report includes Concord Chevrolet’s May 15, 2009, GM Dealer Agreement documents signed by Chevrolet Zone Manager Susan Keenehan.
- Worldwide dealer spokesman for GM’s eBay experiment: Beginning August 10, 2009, in an apparent GM worldwide press release, Mr. Dosanjh endorses GM’s ill-fated eBay California experiment.
- Multiple Dealer Council representative: Mr. Dosanjh is and has been a member of many different Dealer Councils, in most cases appointed by GM.
Following are details on the above items observed in the Google search:
Political contributions: A narrowed Google search of Inder Dosanjh political contributions reveals support for various races. In 2008, he donated $2,000 to Hillary Clinton for President. On May 23, 2009, he donated $5,000 to the Jerry Brown for Attorney General 2010 campaign. While dealer contributions to the campaigns of congressional and presidential candidates in election years are not uncommon, the large $5,000 contribution to the campaign of an incumbent Attorney General a year and a half before the next election seems highly unusual. This contribution, along with some contributions made later, may be viewed here on the first line.
The May 23, 2009, timing of the contribution is in eerie coincidence eight days after GM’s May 15 announcement of non-renewal dealers, and nine days before General Motors filed bankruptcy on June 1. A series of events that occurred immediately after GM filed bankruptcy could provide clues to the motivation for the donation:
- On June 12, 2009, GM Vice-President Mark LaNeve issued a shocking appeal to surviving GM dealers to contact their legislators to urge their support in closing their fellow dealers.
- A June 17, 2009, article describes a groundswell of opposition in Congress and among state Attorneys General to GM’s rejection of selected dealers’ agreements.
- On June 19, 2009, 37 state Attorneys General, including California’s Jerry Brown, filed a joint opposition with the bankruptcy court objecting to GM’s rejection of dealer agreements in violation of state franchise laws. The California New Car Dealers Association (CNCDA) supported Attorney General Brown’s position.
- On July 6, 2009, surviving dealers were asked to sign a letter urging legislators not to support HR2743, the dealer franchise restoration bill described in the June 17 articles shown above. Many dealers felt the need to sign this letter because of perceived factory “scorekeeping.”
It is reasonable to assume that GM anticipated state Attorney General opposition before its May 15 notification to selected dealers of their impending demise. Even if GM hadn’t already been advised by Attorneys General prior to May 15, the April 30 Chrysler bankruptcy filing certainly would have sparked opposition of which GM would have become aware. Mark LaNeve’s June 12 appeal to dealers demonstrates GM’s ruthless approach to pitting dealer against dealer. While the CNCDA’s position is the obvious one that any fair-minded dealer would support, it would seem that Mr. Dosanjh’s apparent tight relationship with GM would put him on the opposite side of the issue, especially since he would benefit by the forced elimination of dealers in his territory. To accomplish its goal of dealer closure, it would be in GM’s best interest to fend off Attorney General opposition. Mr. Dosanjh’s voice as a dealer supporting GM’s cause might carry some weight with Mr. Brown.
2012 update: As noted earlier, Mr. Dosanjh made several contributions since his May 23, 2009 $5,000 contribution to the Brown for Attorney General campaign. He donated to two local Fremont politicians running for state office, $2,000 to Alberto Torrico and $500 to Bob Wieckowski, as well as another $5,000 to the Brown for Governor campaign on December 31, 2009 (eroneously shown as “69″), as shown here. In 2011 he donated another $1000 to Wieckowski, and in 2012, $1,000 to Ornellas for Senate. These donations total $14,500.
Even more astonishing is Mr. Dosanjh’s $25,000 contribution to the “Brown for Governor Exploratory Committee” on September 11, 2010. This huge contribution is listed among major corporations, unions, and a very few wealthy individuals, many of whom are well known, at the apparent top levels of $25,900 and $25,000. Of note is the fact that Mr. Dosanjh’s contribution exceeded that of Toyota Motor Sales USA, Inc., which contributed $20,000, and the fact that General Motors is not listed as a contributor. It would seem that, like Toyota, GM would benefit from such a contribution. However, GM may be avoiding direct political contributions due to the bailout and continued partial ownership by the U. S. Treasury Department. As a major corporation would seemingly benefit politically from a major contribution to the governor of the nation’s largest state, and a single dealer would not, the question arises as to why Mr. Dosanjh would do so.
It appears that Mr. Dosanjh’s $35,000 contributed to Governor Brown in 2009 and 2010 paid off in providing him personal contact with the Governor. On October 28, 2011, Mr. Dosanjh and the North American Punjabi Association met with Governor Brown. In the picture in this Pravasi Today article, Mr. Dosanjh (in light-colored suit and blue tie) stands next to Governor Brown. It is reasonable to assume that this personal contact would open the door to future discussion of other matters related to the auto business.
Publicly-stated GM support: In 2009, Mr. Dosanjh applied for a $250,000 loan from the City of Concord, repayable over 10 years at 0% interest. The loan was to convert Mr. Dosanjh’s Saturn of Concord dealership to the Chevrolet image program due to his acquisition of the Chevrolet franchise from Fitzpatrick Chevrolet on May 15, 2009. Mr. Dosanjh’s company is California Automotive Retailing Group, Inc. (CARG). A July 27, 2009 report prepared by the City Staff for the Concord City Council recommended approval of the loan, in part supporting its recommendation with the following statements:
- General Motors (GM) has demonstrated strong corporate support for this deal and confidence in CARG. GM’s support for this deal will increase the chances of economic success for CARG.
- CARG is well-managed and well-positioned to become a dominant dealer in GM’s network. They are also well-positioned to attract other dealerships to Concord in the future.
- CARG will benefit from the carryover auto service business resulting from the closure of other area GM dealerships.
- CARG has a demonstrated track record of effective management and profitability.
- The proposed dealership is at risk of not succeeding without Agency assistance.
The above statements bring several thoughts to mind, which include the following:
- Many of the above statements appear to be based on observations made by Sumpf & Company as noted on the aforementioned July 27, 2009, City of Concord staff report. Sumpf & Company is a real estate firm in Southern California. In the past, owner Mark Sumpf worked for some years for a company that constructed auto dealership facilities. Part of Mr. Sumpf’s role was to work with cities in the development of dealership and auto center sites, which sometimes included requesting city financial assistance for his dealer clients. Mr. Sumpf seemingly has little or no expertise in the area of dealership business operations or financial analysis upon which a lender would normally rely.
- Interestingly, Mr. Sumpf’s statements about GM’s likelihood of terminating competitors and CARG becoming dominant were made on May 13, 2009, two days before affected dealers received notice of termination prior to GM’s bankruptcy filing. It seems that Mr. Sumpf would not have made those statements unless GM or Mr. Dosanjh had provided him with inside information about the planned terminations; information that no other dealer had as of May 13.
- The statement about attracting other dealerships to Concord in the future could only mean Cadillac, as the other remaining GM divisions, Buick and GMC, are already represented in Concord by well-established Lehmer’s Buick-(Pontiac)-GMC. The only Cadillac dealer in the area is Michael Stead Chevrolet-Cadillac in nearby Walnut Creek, which GM notified it would eliminate as it did me. Michael Stead’s father bought the Cadillac dealership in 1980, and Michael added Chevrolet in the mid-2000’s. Connecting the dots, and combining with Mr. Dosanjh’s explosive growth, seemingly could only mean that GM planned to award Mr. Dosanjh Mr. Stead’s Cadillac franchise, as it will apparently do with mine (and most likely Buick.) Creating an empire that only began in October 2008 with the acquisition of Crown Chevrolet-Cadillac and Hayward Chevrolet, this scenario would give Mr. Dosanjh all Chevrolet and Cadillac dealerships in the East Bay 680 freeway corridor cities of Concord, Dublin, and Fremont. However, due to a law passed in Congress in late 2009 that would allow terminated dealers to apply for reinstatement, Michael Stead was able to negotiate the retention of Cadillac while giving up Chevrolet. Still, one Chevrolet competitor was eliminated.
- The statement about the dealership being at risk of not succeeding without Agency assistance defies belief. Mr. Dosanjh had purchased the $6,200,000 Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep facility at the Fremont Auto Mall just one week earlier on July 20, on top of countless millions of dollars spent on dealerships purchased in the months leading up the plea for the supposedly life and death City of Concord loan.
Another result of the Google search is the claycord.com website, a Concord/Walnut Creek area community blog which on July 27, 2009, showed San Francisco CBS station KPIX’s Ann Notorangelo reporting on Mr. Dosanjh’s $250,000 interest-free Concord Chevrolet loan request that would be heard at that night’s Concord City Council meeting. Ms. Notorangelo states that pre-meeting comments on the claycord website were overwhelmingly negative, which can be confirmed by viewing the claycord.com website. (The reader comments have dropped off the website, but there were over 100 comments, mostly negative.) At the meeting that night, the City Council/Redevelopment Agency, with some members in apparent awe at Mr. Dosanjh’s success and wealth, approved the loan against the expressed will of the community. The City Council/Redevelopment Agency meeting can be viewed at the City of Concord website. (When the webcast appears, slide the right column down to item 7(a), and then click on the right arrow to view the Concord Chevrolet segment.)
National and worldwide dealer spokesman for GM’s eBay experiment: On August 10, 2009, GM announced an experiment in which participating California dealers would list their new vehicle inventories on eBay, and offer them for auction to the public. A Google search reveals that Mr. Dosanjh was the dealer spokesman designated to support the program, appearing in countless publications across the U. S. and around the world in a multitude of languages. In each of the worldwide publications, Mr. Dosanjh was quoted with various positive comments about the eBay experiment, always ending with, “I think they should have done this a long time ago.” As the array of media was so diverse and was internationally distributed, it could only have been done through a press release from General Motors. Thus, Mr. Dosanjh would have been the one dealer GM selected out of its 225 participating California dealers to act as spokesman. Also, it appears that Mr. Dosanjh’s enthusiasm for the eBay program was out of step with the majority of California GM dealers.
At the conclusion of the eBay experiment on September 30, 2009, another round of articles appeared in various publications in which many dealers were quoted about their experiences with the program. Despite factory to dealer cash incentives for listing vehicles, huge statewide advertising expenditures, and any fees GM may have paid eBay, there was little indication that GM’s eBay experiment was anything other than a flop. In the New York Times and other publications, even the once enthusiastic Mr. Dosanjh did not report any success other than, “Most people got online and looked at the inventory and came on down to the dealership. It was not a complete disappointment.” After reviewing the eBay experiment, it appears that Mr. Dosanjh was one of very few dealers who might have ever looked favorably on the program. More on GM’s eBay experiment may be viewed here.
Multiple Dealer Council representative: GM Dealer Councils are committees of dealers traditionally elected by their peers to represent dealer interests when periodically meeting with factory representatives. In recent years, a trend had evolved in which some Dealer Council members are appointed by GM, rather than elected by their peers. Consequently, the appointees may or may not be ones dealers might choose to represent them. Just as a politician would normally appoint a member of his or her own party, I would speculate that GM would appoint a dealer who would most likely support its position on various issues.
Based on various articles in the Google search results and other sources, it appears that Mr. Dosanjh has been on many councils since his first experience as a GM dealer in 2003, according to date sequences described in an article in IndUS Business Journal. Even as a new GM dealer, as of the 2005 article, Mr. Dosanjh was selected by GM to sit on a Hummer “think tank”, most likely its Dealer Council. The article also states that Mr. Dosanjh at the time was on the “board of directors” of the General Motors Minority Dealers Association, which is most likely the Minority Dealer Advisory Council, which Mr. Dosanjh apparently rejoined for the 2009-2010 term.
Mr. Dosanjh was apparently also on the Saturn Dealer Council up until the time GM terminated the brand. Additionally, on July 2, 2009, GM Vice-President Susan Docherty announced the appointment of Mr. Dosanjh to represent the Western Region as an additional member of the Buick-Pontiac-GMC Dealer Council. This appointment was made despite the facts that Mr. Dosanjh had acquired Dublin Buick-Pontiac-GMC less than three months earlier, was busy buying and closing down dealerships almost non-stop, and was on several other Councils.
Until very recently, Dealer Council members have always been elected by their peers to represent their collective interests. Many times over the years, dealers in both my Buick and Cadillac Districts elected me to represent them on the Zone Dealer Councils, which was comprised of Northern California and all or part of about eleven other western states. For the years 1999-2001, I was elected to represent the Cadillac Western Region on the National Dealer Council. The Region consists of all states from Montana-Wyoming-Colorado-New Mexico and west. I was always proud of the faith my fellow dealers placed in me. In contrast, it appears that GM appointed Mr. Dosanjh to his Dealer Council positions while they funded his empire. As I am not aware of any of Mr. Dosanjh’s peer dealers who respect him, in my opinion it is unlikely that he would ever be elected.
The meteoric rise, and GM “inner circle” status, of Inder Dosanjh is unlike anything I have ever seen. He seems to “own” a group of GM employees of influence who have virtually built his instant empire. GM dealers are mystified by what he gets away with, with some saying, “He must have pictures of somebody.” While his dealerships sell decent volume (except Fremont Cadillac-GMC-Buick,) much of it results from severe price-cutting to take business from GM competitors’ market areas, an action that sells no additional GM products. I am aware of considerable customer dissatisfaction, and a large number of angry people who have been negatively affected by him. All things considered, it is a foregone conclusion that the empire will self-destruct at some point.