Beginning in March 2004, Bob Lewis, owner of Bob Lewis Volkswagen, located directly next door to Signer Buick-Cadillac, approached me about renting my facility for another franchise he had access to.  I replied that I had no interest in getting out of business.  In the months that followed, he and his son contacted me repeatedly with the same message, which eventually included a tentative monthly rent offer.  At that point, I decided that I should at least explore my options in the face of continually plummeting Buick sales.  In August, I contacted GM Dealer Network Develop­ment Area Manager Herman Caruthers to again discuss GM assistance in my acquisition of Pontiac-GMC, or the alternative of GM buying back my franchises to free up my facility for rental to Mr. Lewis.  Mr. Caruthers expressed GM’s continued interest in buying back my franchises, but offered no hope for my acquisition of Pontiac-GMC.

After a couple of telephone discussions, I met with Mr. Caruthers and Dealer Network Planning Regional Operations Manager Jim Gentry in October 2004.  At the meeting, I explained about Bob Lewis’s interest in renting my facility, and about my frustrating experiences with GM concerning the Fremont Auto Mall and multiple Pontiac-GMC rejections.  A second meeting was held on November 19.  At each meeting, the GM representatives presented me with a confidentiality agreement letter to sign in preparation for future discussions, but I signed neither.  There were no monetary discussions or further meetings, as after giving thought to my options, I decided that I did not wish to give up the business to which I had dedicated so much of my life.  Furthermore, Mr. Lewis hadn’t contacted me in months, as his business at his three dealerships had declined recently.

Within two weeks of my November 19, 2004, meeting with Mr. Caruthers and Mr. Gentry, multiple rumors that I was selling reached my employees.  These rumors could only have come by way of GM, as I had told nobody about my meetings with the GM employees.  As a result of the rumors, two of my employees approached me separately to ask me if the rumors were true.  In late December 2004, my last remaining Sales Manager informed me that he was leaving for other employment, acknowledging that his decision was prompted by the rumors.  My efforts to change his mind were unsuccessful.

On January 5, 2005, Mr. Caruthers e-mailed me asking if I had heard from Bob Lewis, which I had not.  On January 14, Zone Manager Susan Keenehan called me and sug­gested that since our month’s sales had started out slowly that I should sell, to which I replied that I was not interested.  (I would speculate that Ms. Keenehan didn’t encourage other dealers with a slow early January to sell.)  On January 31, Mr. Caruthers again e-mailed me to ask if I could meet with Mr. Gentry and him on February 11.  Around that same time, Ms. Keenehan called me and attempted to make an appointment for Mr. Gentry and her to meet with me.  As the meeting would obviously have been yet another attempt to get me to sell, I did not schedule a meeting.  I clearly informed Ms. Keenehan that I had no interest in selling, and to not raise the subject again.

In early April, Ms. Keenehan scheduled a meeting for Regional Sales Manager Maurice Williams and her to meet with me at my dealership on April 12, 2005.  She did not give a reason for the visit, other than Mr. Williams was to be in town.  As I had previously made it clear to Ms. Keenehan not to bring up the subject of selling again, neither she nor Mr. Williams mentioned it.  However, since I knew their goal, during the meeting I once again made it clear to both of them that I had no intention of selling.  On April 13, unbeknownst to me at the time, a secret internal e-mail sequence involving four GM employees reported of the previous day’s meeting, and outlined a covert scheme to induce my exit so GM could go forward with its Fremont Auto Mall Buick-Pontiac-GMC-Cadillac plan (“BPG/K” in the e-mail.)  While the e-mail didn’t state it, GM had already made it clear to me that it wanted Mr. Okenquist to have my franchises.  At the time, I was unaware of GM’s Auto Mall plan and the internal e-mail sequence, but learned of them at later dates.  The secret April 13 e-mail set the stage for a series of absolutely evil conspired acts that would follow, including a warranty audit and an IRS audit.  Both of these audits are described with document support in other Expanded Details on this website.

Following my clear messages to Ms. Keenehan not to mention my selling again, a “Trojan horse” plan was apparently developed to continue GM’s efforts to convince me to sell.  The plan involved my long time business friend since the early 1990’s, Area Service Manager Brian Vieau.  During his dealership contacts beginning sometime in early 2005, Mr. Vieau began making suggestions to me that I should sell.  These encouragements, which continued for three or four months, constituted a 180-degree reversal from his positive reinforcing nature of the past.  His comments included such things as, “You don’t want GMC, it’s too competitive,” and “You should have lunch with Pat Davis.  He keeps talking Cadillac, Cadillac, Cadillac.”  Pat Davis was Executive Manager of Fremont Pontiac-GMC and son-in-law of MHD dealer Ken Okenquist, both of whom appeared to be highly regarded by GM.  It had been GM’s plan for years for Mr. Okenquist to get my franchises.  (Fremont Pontiac-GMC, along with Mr. Okenquist’s three other GM dealerships, would later close in financial failure in January 2009.) 

During one of his visits, Mr. Vieau stated to me, “You should sell this place and buy a dealership in a small town,” in obvious conspiracy with the scheme outlined in the secret April 13 e-mail to get me to relocate to either Sonoma or Hollister, both rural California small towns.  In another visit, Mr. Vieau made the absurdly baseless comment, “You should be selling 400 Cadillacs per year.”  This volume compares to neighboring Santa Clara/San Jose dealer St. Claire Cadillac, the only Cadillac dealer in affluent Silicon Valley with approximately four times the market population of Signer Buick-Cadillac, sold only 358 new Cadillacs in 2005 and 378 in 2006.  Mr. Vieau also made uncharacteristically derogatory remarks such as, “If all dealers sold cars like you do, GM would be out of business.”  (It is ironic that in June 2009, General Motors Corporation actually did go out of business in bankruptcy.  Also, in an apples to apples Buick sales comparison between my dealership and Ken Okenquist’s San Jose, Dublin, and Colma dealerships, my dealership was the Buick volume leader in the years since Mr. Okenquist acquired the additional three dealerships in 2000.)  It is also noteworthy that nearly all other Northern California GM dealers like me without Chevrolet or GMC had either already gone out of business, or, unlike me, were allowed to acquire one of GM’s two truck lines in order to survive.[1]


[1] Excludes Saturn, the dealer network of which was designed to stand alone without other brands.  Saturn division was ultimately closed in 2009.