‘We’re being bullied’: Car giant’s $15m shot at VW

A BITTER legal dispute has erupted between one of Queensland's largest family-owned car dealers and wholesaler Volkswagen Australia, with claims of unreasonable and bullying tactics over plans to build a new six-brand car showroom.

Westpoint Autos (Qld) Pty Ltd (Westpoint) has sued Volkswagen Group Australia (VGA) for $15 million in damages in Brisbane Supreme Court, alleging its CEO Michael Bartsch and senior executive Carlos Santos deceived owners John and Luke Hawkins into signing a five-year Volkswagen franchise by promising they would help to develop the new VW showroom at Indooroopilly to service Brisbane's western suburbs.

VGA denies the claims it deceived or acted unconscionably, and has counter-sued Westpoint, asking the court to declare that its was entitled to terminate the franchise agreements on July 5 last year, three years into a five year deal.

VGA argues it terminated the deal because Westpoint failed to upgrade its planned multi-brand sales showroom and servicing facilities to meet Volkswagen's exacting standards.

The proposed termination of Westpoint's VW dealership franchise has been put on hold pending the outcome of the legal stoush.

Westpoint argues it has been selling cars in Brisbane's western suburbs for 30 years, and has sold, or is currently selling, Jeep, Nissan, Hyundai, Isuzu Ute, Honda, Suzuki and Fiat vehicles.

One of VGA's complaints was that Westpoint didn't have a wheel-alignment machine at its Taringa VW service centre, and was instead using a nearby Bob Jane T-Mart or an Audi workshop at Indooroopilly for alignments.

VGA also claims it thought the new Indooroopilly showroom would only house four car brands, not six.




Westpoint argues that it has "bent over backwards" to try to comply with VGA's demands for the design of the new Moggill Rd showroom and its temporary service centres at Taringa and Darra, but says VGA's demands would have cost $4 million in lost income and made the service business unprofitable and unviable.

Westpoint argues VGA demanded they invest over $1 million on specialist VW equipment to fit out temporary showrooms and temporary service centres.

The temporary showrooms and service centres are in place until Westpoint opens its

new six-brand dealership at 440 Moggill Rd, Indooroopilly, and a service centre in Seventeen Mile Rocks.

Westpoint has argued VGA's demands that it install special heavy-duty car hoists and wheel-alignment equipment to service VW's large commercial vans were unnecessary, and would use space dedicated to the profitable servicing other car marques.

Westpoint argued it has only serviced two large VW vans at Darra in the past seven months, and the space would be better used to service regular sized VW cars, which make up the majority of their business.

However last month, as part of the court case, Westpoint agreed to install large hoist equipment at its Darra service centre.

Westpoint managing director John Hawkins says in court documents that in 2017 Westpoint was Queensland's No.1 VW dealer, in terms of sales.

He claims in 2018 Westpoint sold 717 VWs worth $25 million and made $1.6 million from servicing cars.

The parties are due to attend a settlement conference by Friday, and return to court on March 19.