Life after GM

It appears that three of the four Central Alberta dealerships cut adrift by General Motors of Canada will continue to operate.

It appears that three of the four Central Alberta dealerships cut adrift by General Motors of Canada will continue to operate.

Three Hills Motor Products, Sundre Motors, Ponoka Chevrolet and Gary Moe Saturn of Red Deer were among the dealerships notified on May 21 that their sales and service agreements with the auto manufacturer would not be renewed beyond October 2010.

Three Hills Motor Products owner Doug Lorraine confirmed Thursday that he will continue to sell used vehicles after his affiliation with GM ends.

“We’ll be a service centre and sell used vehicles and look after our customers that we already have over the last 20 years.”

The dealership has always sold used vehicles, said Lorraine, who thinks the local market is a good one.

“We’re reasonably busy right now,” he said, adding that the timeline for his business’s departure from GM has yet to be finalized.

He hopes to retain all 14 of his staff members.

Lorraine said he doesn’t know why GM chose his 20-year-old business as one of its dealerships to cut.

“Probably just the rural location, I think.”

Sundre Motors will also remain in business, according to a story appearing in the June 2 issue of the Sundre Round Up newspaper.

The Round Up quoted Corey Schiller, the dealership’s sales manager, as saying used vehicle sales have always been a big part of Sundre Motors’ business.

The Advocate was unable to contact Schiller.

In the case of Gary Moe Saturn, notification that it would lose its tie to GM was expected. GM had previously announced that the Saturn brand was being discontinued.

Gary Moe Saturn manager Dean Moe said there were no plans to close the dealership, citing reports that GM was negotiating the sale of Saturn.

Earlier this week, General Motors Corp. chief financial officer Ray Young told reporters and industry analysts that 16 potential buyers are interested in Saturn.

The one dealership in the region that is closing is Ponoka Chevrolet.

Owner Lyle Guthrie said on Thursday that he decided two days earlier to close effective June 30. Staffing considerations made it difficult to postpone this action, he added.

“Even if they’re trying to be loyal to me, if they know at the end of the day it’s not a question of if, it’s when, how can they not take advantage of an opportunity?”

Guthrie said he’s trying to find other jobs for the nearly 20 people who work at Ponoka Chevrolet, and has already moved one to another dealership. But many don’t know what they want to do, particularly those with strong connections to Ponoka.

Guthrie, who has two young children, is among this group.

“I certainly don’t want to go anywhere, but you have to go where the work goes, like anyone else.”

He said the situation is also tough for Ponoka Chevrolet’s customers, who must now travel elsewhere for servicing — or switch to another brand.

Guthrie has owned the dealership for 11 1/2 years. The previous owner operated for 25 years, he said.

He said he was surprised to receive notice that Ponoka Chevrolet was among the casualties of GM’s downsizing.

“If you would have asked me three weeks ago if we were going to be going away this quickly, I would have laughed at you,” he said.

“To be honest with you, there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason.”

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com

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