Dealer stays in business with GM

GRANITEVILLE -- This time the balloons didn't mark a blowout sale on new cars. They were for a staying-in-business celebration.

General Motors changed its mind about dropping Johnson Motor Co. of South Carolina from its dealer network, officials with the Graniteville dealership announced Monday.

Aiken County was in danger of not having a GM dealer after October.

In May 2009, just before filing bankruptcy, GM announced it would not renew the franchise agreements of more than 1,000 dealerships. Johnson Motor and Henna Chevrolet Cadillac in Aiken were among those dealers.

"Johnson Motor Co. is here to stay," said owner Duncan Johnson Jr., who got word last week that the dealership's franchise would be renewed.

The dealer sells Buick and GMC in Aiken County. Its Augusta dealership, which was not on GM's drop list, also sells Cadillac and Saab.

David Jameson, the president of the Aiken Chamber of Commerce, said it is good news to hear that the county will get to keep at least one of its GM dealers.

"That was quite a blow to us last May, when they pulled all of our dealerships. It did not make a bit of sense. It seemed like an arbitrary decision," Jameson said. "It helps customers that have been very loyal to this product."

He said the chamber has been cheering for Henna and Johnson to succeed in changing GM's mind.

"We're hoping to get the same news they got," Jimmy Scott, Henna's general manager, said Monday.

For the next seven months, Henna still holds the right to sell new Chevrolets and Cadillacs in the county, though it has opted to be a used car dealership at the moment.

Henna is in the preliminary stages of going to arbitration with GM to stay in the dealer network after October.

Johnson Motor, which has 20 employees in Graniteville, avoids having to go through the arbitration process. Johnson had frequent meetings with the automaker over the past 10 months, said Stephen Johnston of Team 1 Advertising and Marketing, who works with the company.

"Doing what's right works," Johnson said. "We have not closed down; we have had new product here since we got the letter in May of last year. This is a continuation of what we've been doing."

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