More than a year after the Senate Inquiry into the regulation of the relationship between car Dealers and Manufacturer was established, the Senate Education and Employment References Committee will hand down its final report on 18 March 2021.
The Inquiry was originally triggered by General Motor’s announcement in February 2020, to withdraw the Holden brand and operations from Australia, and was supported by both the Government and the Labor opposition.
While the investigation first focused on how the decision affected Holden employees and the brand’s dealership network, it soon became clear that Holden Dealers were adversely affected and the inquiry evolved to explore franchising relationships between Dealers and Manufacturers.
Around 80 submissions from individuals and organisations were received by the Inquiry, many of them confidential. While we can only guess how many of those were made by Dealers, we assume that Dealer Submissions accounted for more than 50 confidential and public submissions. This is a significant number and the importance of this evidence from Dealers cannot be underestimated.
The AADA has been strongly involved in the extensive process, lodging three Submissions stressing the need for better protections for franchised new car Dealers and giving evidence at public hearings on two occasions.
At the four public and confidential in-camera hearings, the Committee was given first-hand reports from Dealers who have been treated unfairly by Manufacturers. Several Dealers made the decision to testify publicly to the committee and their appearance made a significant impact. These include Mark Palmer from F Gaukroger & Sons, Mark Avis and Ron Klein from Astoria Honda Brighton and Richard Bennett of Magic Enterprises.
There were a number of valuable contributions from other industry stakeholders and organisations, including the National Toyota Dealers Association, the North American Dealer Association, the Motor Trades Association and former AADA CEO David Blackhall.
The hearings put the spotlight on Manufacturers and tellingly those who did appear all said they wouldn’t leave Australia if the Government implemented stronger automotive franchising laws.
We don’t know yet what the findings of the Senate Committee will be, but we are hopeful that the recommendations put forward will include strong protections for Australian new car Dealers that help balance the relationship with overseas OEMs and ensure Dealers and their employees are treated fairly.
The end is in sight for the Senate Inquiry, but our work to achieve better protections for Dealers will continue and is more important than ever.