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Preston Motors celebrates 100 years

Happy birthday: Preston Motors chairman James Bergmuller is the third generation of his family to be involved with the business.

One of Australia’s oldest car dealerships celebrates 100 years of business

General News logo28 Aug 2012

PRESTON Motors is celebrating its 100th anniversary, making it one of Australia’s longest-running automotive dealers.

The company has been marking the occasion throughout August by inviting staff and suppliers to various events and by launching a book, ‘Preston Motors 100: A Celebration of Life and Achievement’ that details the history of the business.

Preston Motors chairman James Bergmuller said he wanted to recognise the efforts of the employees who have helped to ensure that its dealerships remain successful.

“We had a family day with all of our Preston Motors staff and their family and children, about 700 of us, and we did a winery day,” he said.

The company held a very special event last Wednesday night at Carousel in Albert Park featuring performances by acclaimed trumpeter James Morrison and singer Olivia Newton-John.

As well as celebrating the 100-year milestone, the evening had a charitable flavour with Preston Motors making a $100,000 donation to the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre at Melbourne’s Austin Hospital.

The donation was in honour of Mr Bergmuller’s mother, Geraldine, who passed away last year after battling cancer.

 center imageFrom top: Preston Motors' former sites in Franklin Street and Russell Street, Melbourne.

“My mum, who was a director and shareholder of Preston Motors, died of cancer last year and was friends with Olivia,” said Mr Bergmuller.

“Mum wrote the book and did all of the history stuff but didn’t make the 100-year anniversary, so that is why we gave to that foundation.”

Preston Motors started life as the Preston Carrying Company in 1912, operating chain-driven trucks that transported milk to Melbourne from dairy farms in Epping and Thomastown, which were then farming areas.

Preston Motors was born when a customer using the company’s Buick hire-car enquired about where she could purchase one.

The business grew steadily from its original site in High Street, Preston, taking on brands such as Citroen, Wolseley, Maxwell, Hillman and Chevrolet, and opening new sites in Elizabeth Street, Bourke Street and Russell Street in Melbourne’s CBD.

Preston Motors shifted focus in 1948 to Australian-built Holden cars.

The business went public in the 1950s and in the early 1970s Mr Bergmuller’s grandfather, Sir James Auswild, had bought a large number of shares. By 1979 he had privatised the company and owned it outright.

Mr Bergmuller is the third generation of his family to be involved in the company and, although there are now other shareholders, he is the only one who works in the business.

Preston Motors now has 16 dealerships with a portfolio that includes a diverse range of brands including Porsche, Holden, Ford, Proton, Skoda, Mitsubishi, Hyundai and Peugeot.

Mr Bergmuller said he received a plaque commemorating the milestone from both Holden and Mitsubishi, and received messages of congratulations from Victorian premier Ted Baillieu.

“All of the manufacturers are very happy to be associated with us because of our history and heritage and family involvement, which is good,” said Mr Bergmuller.

He credits his staff with the success of the business, highlighting the fact that the average tenure of employees is 25 years.

“We have three people who have been with us for over 40 years and another 20 who have been here for over 30 years.

“Our CFO is our longest-serving staff member and has been with us 40-plus years, which is longer than I have been alive.”

While there are plans to expand the company further with new dealerships, Mr Bergmuller was coy about specific plans.

“We endeavour to buy a new site every year and continue to grow the group down here. We do have plans, but unfortunately I can’t tell you yet.”

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