Following GM’s forcing of my relocation against my will to Newark in 1992-1995, the conspired efforts to induce a Buick/Olds franchise trade in 1995-1996, then the more intense efforts to induce my exit in 1998, there was a period of relative peace from 1999 through 2002.  While it difficult to read the seemingly devious minds of GM management, the following changes and events occurred, and may have contributed to my brief period of peace:

  • GM’s Fremont Pontiac-Olds-GMC plan had failed.  Steve Jackson didn’t want the dealership, and GM didn’t ask Eleanor Felbaum to stay permanently.  GM appointed Ken Okenquist as dealer in March 2000.
  • There had been legal challenges to GM’s San Fernando Valley project in 1998 and 1999 that were a setback to GM’s dealer takeover plans in California.  New state dealer protection laws were enacted.
  • GM had been stung by the dealer backlash and new dealer protection laws resulting from the GM Retail Holdings fiasco that it scrapped in January 2000. 
  • Ford Motor Company had also attempted factory takeover of select dealer markets, which also ended in failure.  However, I am unaware of Ford abusing any of its dealers as it did Bob Gee and me.  It announced the “Auto Collection” plan in 1997, aggressively bought dealerships in select markets, and then abandoned the strategy in December 1999.  It took until April 2002 to unload all the dealerships it bought.  Interestingly, one of the dealerships Ford bought in 1998 then sold in about 2001 was Fremont Ford, located across the street from my dealership. 
  • GM reorganized at the beginning of 1999.  A major part of the change was that there were no divisional zone managers as there had been; that is, a Chevrolet Zone Manager, a Buick Zone Manager, etc.  Nearly all at the zone level were reassigned to new duties in a new structure.  The co-conspirators who ganged up on me were thus disbanded as a group.
  • Susan Koerber, who became Susan Keenehan after her marriage in the late 1990’s, was no longer my Zone Manager.  Under the new 1999 structure, GM had “Market Area Managers” covering all GM brands in a smaller geographical area.  My Market Area Manager as of the beginning of 1999 was Herman Caruthers who, at least in my dealings at the time, seemed to be ethical.  To my knowledge and recollection, in a refreshing change, he never attempted to damage me or induce me to sell.
  • I was a member of the Western Region Dealer Council of all GM brands, and the Cadillac National Dealer Council for the years 1999, 2000, and 2001.  Dealer Council members are elected by their peers to what is a prestigious position in which dealers meet with GM senior management regularly during their term.  Out of approximately 250 Cadillac dealers in the Western Region, I was one of three on the Regional Council.  I was also one of two from the Western Region on the ten-dealer Cadillac National Dealer Council along with two from each of the four other Regions.

As noted earlier, in December 2000 GM announced the long-anticipated closure of Oldsmobile Division after a thinly-veiled phaseout of nearly a decade.