By on May 5, 2014
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TTAC commenter Buickman, better known as Jim Dollinger to friends, colleagues and loved ones, was on Autoline Detroit last week to present his plan to save General Motors. Rather than present it in the form of an article, we’re posting Jim’s Autoline segment for your perusal The video should start right at Jim’s segment, but if it doesn’t fast forward to the 42 minute mark. Let us know what you think of the plan.

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126 Comments on “Ur-Turn: TTAC Commenter Buickman Presents His Plan To Save GM...”


  • avatar
    KixStart

    An hour and twenty-nine minutes is a *lot* of time. No transcript?

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve set the video to start right at Jim’s segment.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        All right, we’ll give it a go. Thanks for the extra effort.

        • 0 avatar
          KixStart

          Hmm… It started right at the beginning. What time is Buickman’s segment?

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          The meat of it starts at the 40:00 mark.

          Part of his plan is to give people free vehicle service (for any car) every six months in exchange for taking a test drive. He seems to think that this will increase market share by 5%. (He continues to presume that there is no product problem.)

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            Hasn’t his plan been floating around for the better part of the last decade?

            Like you said, he continually ignores problems with the product. If a great dealer sales and service experience were enough to sell a car, Saturn would still be in business.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            I’m not paying close attention to it, so I may have missed some of his points, but he has been talking about getting executives from corporate to visit dealer service departments and making it possible to custom order cars and to see them built online.

            This sounds like an add-on to his “return to greatness” plan that he has posted here. The ideas in the video seem OK, but I suspect that he underestimates how hard it will be to convert the large quantity of people outside of Michigan who won’t seriously consider a GM car because it’s a GM car — offering a free oil change and spin around the block probably won’t fix that.

          • 0 avatar
            sgtyukon

            There are plenty of people, me included, who swore off GM cars 30 or more years ago. They built crap for a long time. For us, they’ll have to build good stuff for a long time (maybe not 35 years, but a long time) before they’ll consider another one. There are also plenty of people who keep their cars as long as possible, because they HATE the car-buying experience. If you just hate the car buying experience, what he’s suggesting would help.

          • 0 avatar
            Xeranar

            This is really an argument between Buickman’s salesmen/ground game approach vs. Pch101′s high level market economic views. I’m not familiar enough to with the practical sales end to claim I know better, I know what I know, I understand economics at the core levels but I focus on labor so the marketing end is largely a psychological argument more than anything concrete.

            It seems like the basic argument Buickman has is that you can overcome the product with sheer willpower and it seems to be fairly true. The greatest products rarely overwhelm the market, usually a great sales strategy can make up a big difference between a deficient product versus the best in the field.

    • 0 avatar

      35 minute mark

      • 0 avatar
        360joules

        It’s obvious you love the product. It’s a great feeling to be in sales and loving the product. Too bad the parent company got confused at so many levels.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Won’t be able to watch the video until after work.

    With that said, Jim is a perma-bear when it comes to GM and his prediction of marketshare decline year after year after year here on TTAC has never come to fruition.

    • 0 avatar
      Thatkat09

      Why am i under the impression that Buickman thinks sales of GM products are in a full on tailspin.

      • 0 avatar
        bomberpete

        He can be annoying and a bit of a Chicken Little in short-term predictions, but many of the things that have brought about GM’s long-term problems were pointed to by Buick Man a long time ago.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          GM’s greatest problem was product, and he has always defended it.

          The branding problems are a symptom of the product problem. I would agree that the cars are substantially better than what they were, but the product doesn’t provide much of an advantage, either.

    • 0 avatar
      ect

      Actually, GM has lost market share almost continuously since 1976 – including during the “new GM” era. From 46.5% in 1976 to 21.9% in 2008, to 17.5% in 2013, according to Ward’s.

      That’s quite a drop.

      • 0 avatar
        Xeranar

        The argument is a bit salacious at its core because you have to consider since 1976 the re-emergence of real competition is what drove down their market share. Not to say that they didn’t hurt themselves seriously but Honda, Toyota, Mazda, The Korean Twins didn’t show up on the block until the late 1970s until the 1990s. The size of the market has grown but the nameplates have increased to more than double that field since then.

    • 0 avatar

      turn he chart right side up, you’re obviously reading upside down.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Ha!

    First of all, why would I want/let a GM tech work on my non-GM car? Even for something as simple as an oil change – it’s just not what they do.

    Frankly, at this point, GM could send a stripper to my house and she wouldn’t be able to drag me into a GM dealership. I have too much personal and anecdotal evidence about the low quality and lack of durability coming from GM to even consider buying anything from them.

    Heck, even at the rental-car counter, when asked what I want to drive, my answer is “Anything but GM”.

    MAYBE, just maybe… if they offered their cars for half what the competition charges, I might stop in and LOOK at their cars… but I’d probably leave without them.

    GM has burned far too many bridges to drag haters back into their showrooms, EVER.

    • 0 avatar
      philadlj

      You’re probably right, but this isn’t necessarily about luring GM Haters or trying to change minds.

      It’s about bringing a few more warm bodies into the dealership, of which one could turn into a sale – simple as that.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      I wouldn’t go into any dealership service at $100+ an hour when I can do it myself. The two dealership I purchased the Verano and Encore from, along with the 3-4 other Buick dealerships I test drove cars from, were very profession, courteous, with no pressure or obnoxois salespersons. Only were wearing khakis and polo shirts where others had suits/ties.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      >Heck, even at the rental-car counter, when asked what I want to drive, my answer is “Anything but GM”.

      How often do they hand you the keys to a Buick when you say this?

      I recall requesting a Chrysler product once and the girl said they didn’t have any, I’d have to take an Avenger.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      You jackal! Some of us read this at work, and big guffaws with no ability to explain why are not the best move. I’m not scared to go into a GM dealership, and I’d like to see the stripper idea given a try. For me the issue is product. I’ve been to test drive events on (no squealing tire allowed) mini-autocross tracks hosted by GM, rented a few, and not found anything I could ever put up with. I’ve driven a wide spectrum of GM’s over the last 2 years (one BIG exception; haven’t tried the Caddy’s) and not only lacked WOW, didn’t even find anything I’d willingly rent again. The Caddy I was a passenger in last was 2 years old and the dash had dangling bits, the interior door pulls had crackling finish… The driver was an ex GM engineer and proud of his ride. I can’t figure it out.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    He has a good point in that from a dealer perspective, the cost of free basic service is probably less than zero. You have a customer’s car on a hoist, you can potentially get customer to buy fee based servcies for necessary repair work or preventative work found on inspection, plus you have someone out taking a test drive in a new car. Sure, a lot of people coming in for free service arent likely to be interested in actually purchasing, but when they do, at least they will have a GM vehicle to guage against whatever they are considering, and who knows, maybe it would open the eyes of a lot of Kool Aid drinkers that there is actually some viable alternatives to their camcord. It would probably produce at least a few sales.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      I have always read Buickman’s comments on ttac with interest because he conveys in his comments that he knows what he is talking about. In fact, I was interested enough in discovering his identity a few years back to inquire Buickman through DuckDuckGo, and in turn LinkedIn.

      GM would do well to listen to the advise of someone as well-versed in the industry, customer-service and privately-owned business. But it is unlikely that GM, even under Mary Barra, will deviate much from its past and current path.

      But the bottom line IMO is that a lot fewer people (buyers) care about GM today and into the future than did in 2008.

      BTW, I do not know Jim Dollinger and have never met him, unlike some other commenters on ttac.

  • avatar
    RogerB34

    I would not go to a dealer for $500 free service contingent on test driving a car. Meaningless to me.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      It’s not $500 for test-driving just one car, it’s a test-drive for every $50 in service, limit once or twice per year until you hit $500.

      You probably like the idea less now.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        He makes a good point when he suggests getting GM executives off of the golf course and into the trenches, such as on the dealership floor and in the service department.

        But it would behoove Mr. Dollinger to get out of his own trench, and do a stint trying to sell GM cars somewhere else, such as in California. Michigan is not the ideal place for testing these tactics.

        • 0 avatar
          Morea

          Morea’s Plan to Save GM: move the corporate headquarters away from Detroit.

          [Perhaps to Houston or Miami?]

          • 0 avatar
            Toad

            Morea’s plan may be a good idea. Boeing moved their HQ to Chicago, Toyota just move to TX. Fresh blood, new people, new surroundings would probably be great for GM long term.

            But short term it might alienate their core remaining customers to such an extent that GM might not survive the transition.

        • 0 avatar
          redav

          Many of his tactics are just age-old sales/business strategies that have lasted exactly because they work.

          Getting people into a dealership WILL change how they think of you & your product. If you treat them well, they will think better of you. If they haven’t seen your product in a while, they will think better of it. It is a fact that going on a test drive increases the likelihood of buying a car (same as any free trial). Having them come back several times increases the likelihood of a sale. His plan addresses the problem with people who have a 30 year old (false) impression of GM. It’s good business to not pay for something you don’t get (e.g., paying for referrals).

          I don’t care for his salesmanship, but dealerships that implement his plan should see sales go up, at least for a while. I doubt the plan is sustainable, and if GM has deeper product & dealer issues, this plan won’t save them. Instead, it will reaffirm those problems in people’s minds, and it will rekindle their dislike of GM.

          Case in point: I go to the auto show, and look at their new products, and they are better than I expect. I test drive a few and walk away with a better impression, so there’s a better chance I’d buy one. Then, I rent a Malibu and it’s a bucket of crap. That puts me back to disliking GM. They have to foster that auto show feeling & make sure I don’t rent another Malibu. They have to make sure their people treat me well. His plan is the auto show, but it doesn’t stop me from renting a Malibu.

        • 0 avatar

          FYI, I grew up in the car business in Upstate New York, first hanging with my dad who was the top Ford salesman in NY and was with him when he bought a Pontiac GMC store in 1967. we expanded to carry Chrysler, AMC, and Buick. I worked in every department and sold my first car in 1976. 16 years later I moved to Flint.

          these days I sell cars nationwide and have delivered at least one new vehicle in every state but 2. furthermore, through many trips and the benefit of email, I have conversed with industry experts from around the US over many years.

          therefore your suggestion as to my “own trench” has zero validity sir.

  • avatar
    Numbers_Matching

    Gm will be around in some form manufacturing vehicles for the foreseable future. I would worry more about saving certain brands such as Corvette and Cadillac – which don’t really seem to have much of a future until they are successfull globally.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      Corvette isn’t a brand it is a single model under the chevrolet brand, and is availible in a lot of countries, if anything its less American than ever.
      Cheap performance has given way to European priciness.

      And in my opinion cadillac will never be a world brand unless GM decides to Americanize the brand.
      The European market is in the trash, everyone there is doing poorly if not in the red, additionally Europeans like Japanese have pride in their product, something America lacks. China is a possibility, but GM has Buick making that path.
      There’s too little going for caddy, yea they are starting to get vehicles that can be compared to euro luxury, but that’s not what caddy is known for. Something obnoxious and reasonably priced (luxury priced) is needed, but then everyone here and at GM shoots that idea down.

      If it’s not the same as everyone else’s then its an automatic failure to some.

      My .02

      • 0 avatar
        Numbers_Matching

        Well..technically, yes it’s under Chevrolet, but it is managed more like a quasi-brand on to itself. GM needs to save it. Everyone who wanted a C7, currently owns a C7. They need to tone down the ‘Battlestar Galactica meets Gotham’ styling and offer more engine options – and maybe it would have a chance. At least the interior is fixed.

        • 0 avatar
          Numbers_Matching

          ….and Cadillac needed to stay RWD with at least a V8 as an option..yadayadayada…it’s all been discussed here – ad nauseam. In the end, it’s really about product.

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          What do you mean have a chance? Sales are so high they just raised the price several thousand dollars.

          Putting it into its own brand would simply make it a headache, more paperwork, dealing with dealers, its synonymous to chevy as it is to 2 door coupe.

          Not sure if the 7.0 or SC6.2 have made it yet to the C7, but after sales settle down I’m sure they’ll make a comeback. No need to muddy up the power trains so long as they can’t get a break in production.
          3 engines, is a LOT of choices for a low volume performance car, one of which almost gets 30 mpg hwy with over 450hp/TQ

          • 0 avatar
            Numbers_Matching

            ‘What do you mean have a chance? Sales are so high they just raised the price several thousand dollars.’

            And in two years, after every 65+ hawaiian-shirt-wearing-70′s-oldies-listening-bearded-guy owns one, there will be a Corvette death watch.

            Two important factors will have killed it:
            1. Demographic shift
            2. Lack of global appeal

            Gm can fix this, but it might mean a slight re-definiition of the product.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            So why change it now when as APaG notes it has a 2 year wait list.
            Demographics have shifted because 10,000 different factors have led to the price being out of reach by a large percent of people. Though I have very big doubts any high schooler would turn down a free C7.

            Nothing can be done if this car doesn’t appeal globally, its more than likely an anti-American sentiment.

            Cheaper than any European competitor in the same power to weight ratio by almost 2x, while having better fuel economy( not that anyone buying a vette cares about mpg) and an interior to match. What car matches the corvette on all these points?

            Please tell me what is so poorly done on this car? I’d love to hear it.

          • 0 avatar
            Hillman

            Numbers_matching. I am the total opposit of the hawian shirt wearing 70 year old. Shoot, I am a mid 20′s guy but I would love to get a new C7. My problem and hence the demographics is that a 50k+ car is not happening when I have to deal with funding a 401k, home, etc. The best part about the corvette in my opinion is it is a world class super car that the average man can buy when he makes it. It does not have the stigma of the other cars at that price and performance ratio carry.

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          …GM needs to save it. Everyone who wanted a C7, currently owns a C7…

          What are you talking about? The entire production run is sold out – the wait list is almost a year long – GM can’t build the C7 fast enough and just cranked pricing up to make profit based on market dynamics.

          The technology in the C7 will soon trickled into Cadillac and if there is a future generation of the Commodore based on the RWD Alpha platform – likely the next iteration of global sedan and the Camaro.

          • 0 avatar
            Numbers_Matching

            ‘What are you talking about? The entire production run is sold out –’

            Almost every Corvette launch starts off this way and then drops off a cliff. This cycle may have a bigger challenge ahead once demand drops.

    • 0 avatar
      Mandalorian

      The Corvette is a Halo Car. It’s meant to be a showcase of what Chevy is capable of. To be the car that all Chevrolets aspire to be. It’s not meant to be a best seller.

  • avatar
    MrGreenMan

    It’s a shame they will continue to not listen. There are, indeed, many ways to skin the cat. I remember reading through BuickMan’s website again when the GM Death Watch started and wondered – why not try this now?

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      +1,, this is not to change the minds of the “haters” but if you were possibly inclined to give GM a try this would get you into a dealership. The majority of the American Public are not enthusiasts.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        Indeed, many of the strategies would work. A good business has to do everything a good business does, and that includes good salesmanship and making good product. You can’t rest your hat on only one part of the formula.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Free oil change or not, I will not be going back to GM from Toyota, after 30 yrs of dependable service from my Toyotas. so sorry!

  • avatar
    KixStart

    I see a lot of problems with the centerpiece idea: $500 in service in exchange for test drives.

    First, how many of those warm bodies are any kind of intender?

    The people who can best use this service and most willing to put up with spending time with a saleperson are the people who most desperately need to save $50, not the people with the money to buy new cars. I see a lot of extra demand on the salespeople without much increase in sales. I also don’t see salespeople liking the idea of dropping whatever they are doing to take a low-probability prospect on a test drive.

    Second, as a recent new-car buyer, I’m already on a 2 year free service plan. I have no incentive to visit a GM dealer for what I’m getting for free at my regular dealer. I absolutely can not see a Lexus owner taking advantage of this.

    Third, as has been pointed out, how many will trust GM to fix their Toyota? I am actually well acquainted with the service at the nearest GM dealer and it’s one of the reasons I own Toyotas.

    Fourth, this is not zero cost. Being prepared to service all makes and models means more parts inventory and, I would hope, more training.

    Fifth, if this is a great idea… why aren’t dealers doing it already? I can see an argument that it’s not in Buick Dealer A’s best interest to go it alone, as the sale could end up at Buick Dealer B. There may be some value in a brand-wide program.

    Fifth, if this is a great idea and GM goes ahead with it, what’s will be the competitive response? They’ll do it, too.

    Buickman is good at identifying sales ideas but not all GM’s problems are selling problems. He still overestimates the product and things like the results of the customer satisfaction survey. The customer satisfaction survey is not recording comparative results; Buick does not survey Lexus owners and Buick does not serve the customers like Lexus does and probably not any better than Toyota.

    Nor do I believe the assertion that GM’s fuel economy is just as good; I don’t see any evidence of that on Fuelly, for example. And… even if the case could be made that a Malibu is as good as a Camry or Accord on fuel, good luck getting customers to believe that until GM has its own $24K Prius.

    GM has a lot of product, reliability and reputation problems. I can’t see defeating those problem with sales solutions.

    Buickman does have some good suggestions…

    GM’s execs should spend time looking at real people’s real problems. Have them spend a few days/month at a dealership changing oil, selling cars, reviewing customer complaints. I’d really like to see them servicing cars (and then they should service some of their competitor’s cars, just to see how differently things can be done).

    The 30-day price protection guarantee could probably help close some sales, although I’m concerned that people will see it as a gimmick deal on which GM will welsh.

    More than that, I think GM needs to find a way to assure customers of their vehicle’s inherent value. This always brings me back to the Ten year Warranty.

    A Ten Year Warranty is a statement says, “Buy this car and it will serve you well for as long as you need it.” A five year old GM car with the balance of a ten year warranty is going to be more valuable than a five year old GM car with no warranty. Enhancing the resale value of the cars delivers value to the customer and, in the case of leases, takes pressure off GM incentives.

    Lutz liked to talk up the 5 year/100K mile warranty but it was obviously no better to most people than a 5/60. It didn’t make a profound statement about the durability of the product.

    Harder to approach is the idea of “Service that Serves.” There’s plenty of stories of bad-bad-bad service. Repeat visits for the same problem, “can’t reproduce,” pricey repairs that don’t actually fix anything, dealers that don’t care and wiggling out of buybacks instead of delivering satisfaction. GM must find a way to pair a statement warranty with the kind of service that leads to perfect customer satisfaction.

    Then, and this is the most painful part, GM has to wait for the changes to take hold and deliver sales and profits. This is not a quick process.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “Fourth, this is not zero cost. Being prepared to service all makes and models means more parts inventory and, I would hope, more training.”

      This is actually an excellent point. Po dunk Chevy dealer going to service my hybrid/diesel/Tesla?

      Take the same concept and target a specific competitor. I might believe GM dealers could be trained in advance to handle Brand X in addition to their own stuff.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        28: “… target a specific competitor.”

        Hmmm… I do like that better. Any specific suggestion?

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Buickman talks about GM dealers but as one of the other commentators point out, people in the Cadillac buying “class” aren’t going to be lured in with $50 freebies. I’d start with Chevrolet, and say target eh I dunno, Nissan. Any Nissan owner in the month of June (or maybe the whole summer) can show up at a Chevrolet (or perhaps Buick) dealer and get the $50 oil change/and tire rotation. Techs can cut their teeth on the Nissan product in advance and have access to whatever info they need from AllData. For Cadillac, find a similar way to lure BMW drivers in since Cadillacs are BMWs now. Maybe a detailing credit as opposed to maint? If I was a BMW leaser there is probably a rule about having it serviced anywhere but BMW anyway, but who doesn’t want a car wash and maybe wax?

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            I was thinking Chevy vs Toyondissan. Pick any one. They’d better do it right.

            I once drove away from Insty Loob trailing an oil slick similar to that left by the Exxon Valdez. I don’t go to Insty Loob any more. I don’t think it caused any long-term damage but they are a rinky-dink outfit that’s not worth suing. If the Chevy dealer did that… Ka-Ching!

            So, detailing is maybe an even better idea. Much less danger of Chevy’s grease monkeys cross-threading my oil filter. I’m pretty sure I can trust them to wash my car.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            My only thought on all three mainstream Japanese brands simultaneously is this might be too much technical complexity for dealer techs. So much of the late 80s/early 90s Japanese product is still out there and it will be much different than the newer stuff which would be easier to train on. If you break up the brands one at a time, you run less of a risk of screwing it up.

            I think detailing is def the way to go for the Cadillac dealers, but the oil change etc. offer might resonate well with Chevrolet and possibly Buick customers strictly for socioeconomic reasons alone.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Why do people assume that Cadillac buyers wouldn’t be interested in free maintenance? Because they can afford it? BMW owners can afford maintenance, but one of the big selling points on them is the free maintenance.

        Many buyers in the Cadillac demo are thrifty and would love free maintenance and a test run in a Caddy while they wait for their car to be serviced. It’s something that anyone could appreciate. The issue is whether a Lexus/MB/BMW owner would want to set foot in a GM dealer.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I’m thinking most luxo buyers have leased and leasing might have rules about getting maintenance at places other than the dealer, in addition to technical complexities of European or possibly Japanese luxury cars.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            “I’m thinking most luxo buyers have leased and leasing might have rules about getting maintenance at places other than the dealer”

            This is not true. There is legislation that prevents manufacturers from specifying that non-warranty maintenance must be done at the dealer. Check out the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.

        • 0 avatar
          KixStart

          Cadillac buyers are thrifty?

          Anyway, I think one of the attractions of the free maintenance, perhaps most of it, is “no worries, no hassles, no thinking.” At intervals, you take the car in and they do whatever is necessary and you ignore the details. And there’s some confidence that the dealer who sold you the car can at least change the oil properly.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            My grandfather was the kind of guy to pay cash for his new Cadillacs, then peruse the newspaper for restaurant coupons. Just because people can afford to pay for something doesn’t mean they wouldn’t want it for free.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      KixStart, I assume you are suggesting that GM match the Hyundai and Kia 10 year powertrain/5 year bumper-to-bumper warranty. Their engines and automatic transmissions are relatively reliable and a 10 year powertrain warranty would emphasize a positive aspect of their products.

      • 0 avatar
        jpolicke

        If they want to win back buyers they need to do something dramatic, saying “We’re as good as Hyundai” isn’t good enough. How about lifetime powertrain coverage or 10 years/unlimited mileage?

        • 0 avatar
          KixStart

          I think 10/100 would be dramatic enough. It’s not good to be outclassed by Hyundai but Toyota and Honda are only at 5/60. Getting ahead of them – making a statement that they’ll back their car better than Toyota and Honda back their cars – should be enough.

          Beyond that, the car is getting to its 3rd or 4th owner and customer-induced rot is likely to set it. I don’t see why GM should cover the increased cases of abuse that would come along at those ages and mileages.

      • 0 avatar
        Hillman

        If GM puts a 10 year 100,000 mile warranty I will have a new ATS in my driveway. I think that sums up my thought process on what gm needs to do to drive sales.

        • 0 avatar
          heavy handle

          That may be true for you, but few premium buyers (leasers) intend to keep their cars that long.

          GM would make one extra sale from you, and loose millions in warranty claims. It’s a non-starter (just like a 10 year old Cadillac!).

          • 0 avatar
            Hillman

            A car should not have any major issues in a 100,000 miles. I bet more premium buyers (leasers) would keep their car longer if it was not for the stories about a luxury car out of warranty costing so much to repair. I think Hyundai has shown that a longer warranty can prove that your products are quality.

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      “More than that, I think GM needs to find a way to assure customers of their vehicle’s inherent value. This always brings me back to the Ten year Warranty.”

      Bingo – we have a winner!

      If GM is making cars better than they have in the past, then this shouldn’t cost as much as it would have in the past. That said, it *would* cut profits initially, because GM would still need cash on the hood to get people to forget the bad reputation of these vehicles. Over time, they could reduce the incentives and funnel that money into the increased costs of the warranty program (which should be predictable if the vehicles are made well enough).
      As was mentioned, people have mortgages, 401(k)s, college funds, etc. LOTS of stuff competing for their dollars, and need to plan accordingly – a car with a 10-year warranty is attractive because it can exist as part of a budget, a “fixed cost” without the risk of a catastrophic failure destabilizing a tenuous financial structure.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        One problem with a 10 year vehicle warranty is that it cuts into the profitable arena of factory backed extended warranties. Why would someone fork over $1500-$2000 for an extended warranty when the major bits are covered for 10 years?

        Of course a 10 year warranty wouldn’t cover most basic things like electronic features, suspension or steering, but the reason many people buy the service contract is they’re buying insurance against “the big one” in case a transmission or engine goes south out of warranty. They’d have to adjust the plans to be more maintenance oriented and reduce the prices (and profitability). I agree the 10 year warranty would sell cars, but the dealers (and corporate) make the gravy on extras like extended warranties and would put up quite the fuss.

        On the flip side, a 10 year warranty could keep service entry at the dealer higher as customers typically ditch the dealer after the warranty is done. The dealers could make up the difference by capitalizing on those extra opportunities.

        • 0 avatar

          the prices on extended warranties dropped when GM went to 5/100 powertrain guarantee. IMO this is long enough for most people, yet it would be helpful to further reduce the cost of optional coverage and such a reduction could be mentioned in advertisements claiming improvements in reliability.

    • 0 avatar
      skor

      “The people who can best use this service and most willing to put up with spending time with a saleperson are the people who most desperately need to save $50, not the people with the money to buy new cars.”

      ^This^

      I really doubt that a guy who brings his clapped-out Civic in for a an oil change could scrape together the down payment for an new anything. It reminds me of the Simpson’s episode where Homer test drives a Rolls to get some free theater tickets.

      Homer: What advantages does this motor car have over say.. a train. Which I could also afford.
      Rolls Salesman: Well, you’ll notice how the heated gas pedal warms your feet, and the… *homer drives off…. comes back* massages your buttocks. Well homer, shall we discuss the..
      Homer: No we shant…. yoink!

  • avatar
    Travis

    Am I the only one who doesn’t think anyone on the outside needs to tell one of the largest carmakers in the world what they should be doing? GM knows where the money is padding the books and where it’s being shaved off. This isn’t a warranty thing. This isn’t a perception thing. This isn’t a car thing.

    This a business thing. They’re choosing not to do it in a way that is sustainable for strong profit margins. This, my friends, consentual nonconsent. Good stuff, especially when she’s crying.

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      Right, nobody needs to tell GM how to run their business because look how well their system is working for them. Who can argue with a success story like theirs?

      Let them return the 10 billion to the Treasury and they can do anything they want.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      Travis: “Am I the only one who doesn’t think anyone on the outside needs to tell one of the largest carmakers in the world what they should be doing?”

      Two possible answers to this:

      - GM’s share seems to continue to decline. This is not healthy. They do need help understanding what to do to get a customer. Well, to win him back. I’ve owned 3 Chevys. Nobody better qualified to tell GM what to do than the people that gave up on GM and went elsewhere.

      - It’s the Internet. Everybody has the right to my opinion.

    • 0 avatar
      Hillman

      Companies hire consultants all the time. They pay big bucks too.

    • 0 avatar
      Tosh

      “This, my friends, consentual nonconsent. Good stuff, especially when she’s crying.”

      So in your analogy, GM is a dominatrix that can’t hear the customer’s safe word?!

  • avatar
    TW5

    If the plan has $0 upfront costs, and dealers are already paying “$50 per lead”, why does the plan need to be centrally-administered by GM?

    I think this is an example of typical sales puffery (no cost! only upside!). Asking GM corporate to be involved is about dumping the costs onto GM, including some start up costs to turn GM dealerships into test-drive JiffyLubes. GM would also have to coordinate and cover cost for the incentive guarantees and the “extra-mile” lease programs. These programs add another layer of actuarial complexity to the sales/marketing division. Actuarial complexity and legal compliance is probably part of the reason corporate sales/marketing is so poor. Furthermore, when it comes down to it, do people want free oil changes and test drives? or do they want maximum incentives?

  • avatar

    many thoughts here to read and consider. I appreciate all the input, good and bad… it only serves to make Return to Greatness even stronger. I will be checking back in this evening and carefully reviewing all the comments. thanks to all who are taking time to provide feedback.

  • avatar

    Jim, you display a lot of passion for the product and that’s refreshing.

    It’s true that a lot of GM’s problems right now are perceptual…and it’s going to take YEARS to change. I hope someone down at the Silver Silos is paying attention to what you’re proposing. The upcoming generation – the Millennials – craves authenticity and will walk away from anything they perceive as fake. With that understanding…if GM dealers can recast themselves as good neighbors, building relationships as a road to building sales (which your free service for a test drive would certainly help accomplish)…they may have a chance at redemption in the court of public opinion, and begin regrowing market share.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I’d just like to point out everything I see the millennials doing is quite fake and has no real personal authenticity. They choose brands they feel speak to them, but most of their products are all made in the same corner of Guangdong. The common threads of popular millennial products -that I have observed- is relatively defined shelf life, so-so quality at best, and they buy whatever they have been saturated with by marketing.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        They mistake “authentic” and “individualistic.” They want to be unique, true to themselves, and not defined by anyone else–except they don’t know how. They reject what others do just so they can feel different. So of course, a company comes along that knows how to exploit that, and we know the rest of the story.

        The key is sincerity–once you can fake that, you’ve got it made.

      • 0 avatar
        Xeranar

        I’m going to go with 28 & myself are probably bad representations of ‘millenials’. I don’t want to offend but suffice to say we’re probably not the median definition of our generation. In general the millenials are more marketing-savvy than ever before, it makes pushing products more complicated and they as a social group want a less authoritarian and confrontational relationship with their products. Regardless of their desires for global products (the whole remark about Guandong is a recipe for a long discussion on how little control consumers actually have over the marketplace…) they want a more mom and pop experience but seek it from the corporate powers.

        Millenials are also less likely to backlash against their parents because they tend to genuinely like them so this may be an uphill battle for GM simply because the parents were anti-GM and that may carry over more than anything else.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I can’t speak for you but I think I’m also a bad representation of a “person”.

          “they want a more mom and pop experience but seek it from the corporate powers.”

          This is an excellent point, and deliciously ironic. A bit like the fox guarding the henhouse, IMO.

          I realize we are talking products more than behavior, but one thing I’ve noticed that you may have picked up from students, is the 18-25ish crowd cannot keep their faces out of a phone or tablet for more than ten minutes at a time. I’ve also noticed the sub 30 crowd having an affinity for natural type products, i.e. Whole Foods. I share this with them, although I got interested in natural products after doing research in the past twelve months. I don’t subscribe in order to create an identity though product, which is what I/we think they are doing.

    • 0 avatar
      Travis

      What? No. None of the problems GM faces are peceptual. They’ve been at the top of units moved for so long it’s not even funny. Even when they haven’t been number 1, they’re still close enough to where it’s not that big of a deal. They sell cars just fine. It’s just not securing them profits – public perception has nothing to do with that.

  • avatar
    George B

    I think that Buickman’s suggestions are better than most GM sales ideas, but I think he’s delusional if he thinks that GM doesn’t have real product and brand problems that limit sales. On the product side, several products like the Malibu, Camaro, and Impala are insanely heavy for their interior volume. GM powertrain engineers make heroic efforts to generate the thrust necessary to overcome hundreds of pounds of extra mass. It’s long past time for GM engineers in Russelsheim to discover high-strength steel.

    The brand problem is tougher. Too be blunt, many car customers don’t want to be associated with the image Buickman and the circle of Detroit delusion project in this video. Jack raised the issue of BMW M3 owner image vs. Corvette owner image where Russian mobster with tribal tattoos is less negative than loudmouth older guy with the speech patterns of the less-educated. It’s not just a GM problem. The more my 70+ year old aunt said how much she likes her new Camry, the less I want to buy one. When a business, product, or brand becomes too strongly associated with older customers, it becomes difficult to win younger customers. Giving everyone a free meal on their birthday doesn’t solve the image problem of Denny’s.

  • avatar
    JK43123

    +1000 Plus, show me one of these “new and improved” GM vehicles 10 years from now. If it isn’t falling apart, then I’ll believe it.

    John

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Mr. Dollinger,
    here’s my main problem with my Washington D.C. Buick dealers: They are in some of the worst traffic areas in town. The exit to one Buick dealer is on an on-ramp to I-66 and the other is in Tyson’s Corner. Their pain in the keister locations make buying a Buick from them a non-sale. I humbly suggest that if you’re ever in the metro D.C. area; go visit the three Pohanka dealers on US 50. Lexus, Acura, and Chevy all on three interconnected lots. Observe the three different dealerships and how they operate.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    This is all well and good, but you do realize that North America is a distant secondary market for GM? GM is interested in pleasing the Chinese market, so it’s what they want that counts, you just better like what they like, because that’s what you’re going to get.

    Money talks, you know what walks

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I agree with this point, which is why I don’t see post 2010 GM product in my future. Trucks would be the only thing realistically interesting, and both price and size are much too high for my needs.

  • avatar
    readallover

    I shopped Verano, Regal and ATS. Laughably bad back seat leg room. I have no problem buying GM or its`dealers, I have a problem with the cars.

  • avatar
    Joss

    They need to be more in tune with what the younger generations want. Whether via product placement with music icons or major movie & tv or thru likes of tech & clothiers. They need to be innovative with the best technology, product & support for the buck AND then buyers will ebb back. Tall order in a competitive world. They need to attract the best people in vogue with the times. The brand’s old & stale. Bring in new spice.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    Number 1: “GM has wonderful people who would never sign off on something that would jeopardize [people\'s] life.” (38:45) For God’s sake, Mr. Dollinger, put down the Kool-Aid. They did! And the whole world knows it, right down to the extra cost of the acceptable alternative part. They don’t have this kind of slavish devotion to the party line in North Korea.

    Number 2: The plan will not work. Let’s suppose I decide to take my Challenger to a local Chevy dealer for a wheel alignment. (What else can they do? I change my own oil.) They only dish out this GM benevolence $50 at a time, but at least it’s a discount. So when do I get this done? If I show up when the service dept. opens it’s 2 hours before the showroom is open and the salespeople arrive, and they’ll be in their AM meeting for another half hour. Show up later in the day, when the shop is booked up? What, and leave the car overnight? Certainly after the first visit, when they figure out that they have nothing at all I remotely care to buy, they’ll see me coming and say: “He’s just here for his freebie, eff him.” And of course, the salesman is going to make me sit down and give him a phone number so he can call me at inconvenient times to ‘work the prospect’, maybe give me a chance to ‘meet the sales manager’, all for 50 bucks worth of indifferently performed work. My time is worth more than $50. No thanks.

    • 0 avatar

      valid points that need to be addressed. the best joke is the world isn’t funny if you don’t tell it right. the best marketing plan won’t succeed unless it is implemented properly. your questions are addressed in the plan but I was only scheduled for 30 minutes, which turned into almost an hour with viewer questions. thanks for the insightful criticism, it helps.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I don’t agree with the plan.

    First, have a look at the trends in auto loans in the US. They are blowing out in length.

    Second, most who go in for a service might have only had the vehicle for a short term. There interest is low. Why? Because they just forked out lots of money for their new set of wheels.

    Third, I wouldn’t like to be pressured into taking a vehicle for a test drive. When I have my vehicle serviced most service departments are loaded with work and they take you to a shopping centre in a courtesy bus.

    The easiest way for GM to make money is to produce what the consumer wants. Look at their inventory levels, which is waste. I mean one of GMs biggest sellers, the 1/2 ton pickup is more or less performing less than adequately in the market place.

    Maybe if GM put some money into the development of product the product, with better designers/engineers the product will become more desirable. This will translate into more sales.

    In other words, better management can’t be substituted by poor marketing and sales tactics.

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      This. If you have a great product everything else will pretty well work itself out. You don’t need giveaways and freebees to entice the something for nothing crowd.

      It is the product, and if it is good customers will beat a path to your door.

      Unfortunately, GM has a bad reputation with most/many buyers, little prestige, and the current product is mediocre. You can’t coupon your way out of that problem.

    • 0 avatar

      I disagree. our products are fine, it’s the marketing that sucks.

  • avatar
    JK43123

    “GM has wonderful people who would never sign off on something that would jeopardize [people\'s] life.” Really? *cough*Vega*cough*Corvair*coughcough*

    Get real.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Oh, how I’d love to see a South Park take on GM, Dollinger and his plan.

    There are a lot more own-fart sniffers in this country than he thinks. They’d sooner attend a NASCAR race than set foot in a GM dealership. The society that shaped him is gone.

    Big volume GM was for lower-middle struggling to be middle class. There is no more lower-middle except back-sliders from the middle class. And they’re not likely to be gung-ho on anything American.

  • avatar

    looking forward to reading this thread…was too busy today and now it’s bedtime. came up with an idea though. you folks are brutally honest, hard hitting, and thoughtful. add in a nitwit or two and it’s beyond informative with the entertainment. after sorting through the chaff and pondering the intelligent stuff, I will rank my “Top Ten Best Comments”. have at it.

    Buickman
    Founder
    GeneralWatch.com

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Here’s another plan:

    Each and every GM executive, from the chairman down, should be required to dress in ordinary clothes and visit 5 random dealerships in a 5-year-old CamCord.

    Maybe they’ll find out why GM isn’t selling cars. Here’s my final GM showroom experience, right after the Spark came out:

    Me: Hi. I’m interested in the Spark!

    Salesguy: Do you ever drive on the freeway?

    Me: Of course. Everyone drives on the freeway!

    Salesguy: Then you don’t want a Spark.

    Me: Oh. I didn’t realize Chevrolet sold cars that were unsuitable for use on public roadways. Thanks and have a nice day.

    I don’t believe a salesperson should EVER tell a customer what he doesn’t want, nor badmouth the products he or she is selling. The executives should know what goes on at dealerships, then they’ll know why GM can’t sell cars.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I agree with you, but on the same token all of a brand’s product should be at about the same standard.

    • 0 avatar

      I like it.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Buick/GMC is probably positioned the best in this regard of GM’s brands. There are high and lower end models, with high and low trims, and yet all of them feel semi premium. Cadillac is also in an alright position as its products feel semi premium as well (although ATS/XTS resale looks like it could become an issue). The GM brand with the most trouble in Chevrolet. I think half baked Daewoos like Spark diminish the brand too much, it might be different if they were secretly awesome but the internet is full of horror stories about them. I look at the new Impala for way too much money and then I see a little Daeworlet at the other end of the showroom, I’m not going to be impressed. Chrysler until recently suffered a similar problem with Avenger but they have rectified it. Ford seems to have the best product standard lineup of the mainstream domestics. I haven’t heard anyone point and refer to a “POS Ford” in years. Whether they are POS’s or not is another story :)

        GM has to find a way to put out a *good* penalty box and get people excited about it. The most recent foreign showroom I was in happened to be a Toyota dealer, and honestly it was pretty busy inside. I’m not sure how they can get folks excited about a Yaris but GM needs to find a way to emulate it. Personally as far as small cars go I’ve been driving Saturn SLs since 06 and will continue to do so until unable. Whenever that may be I might look at things like Volt, Prius, or maybe Ford’s hybrid. I’ll fish old Volvos out of the river and drive them before I own things like Fit, Yaris, and Spark. All bad (ugly, extremely small, mostly cheap materials, safety concerns) with little good (mileage, maybe reliability).

  • avatar
    wmba

    There is a difference between Marketing and Sales, sort of the difference between the big picture and the grunt work of trying to convince an individual customer to buy.

    Mr Dollinger is the grunt work guy and very successful at it, because he doesn’t forget the details. Trying to get the average sloth at an average dealership to behave like Buickman by making it a Corporate Edict, is about as likely as getting governments to pay off deficits.

    It’s a pie in the sky idea, has no input from marketing. and assumes blameless product. In other words, it’s not going to happen.

    • 0 avatar

      so far I have shown the low hanging fruit in RTG’s first twenty steps. Extra Mile gets into more detailed strategy. but so far you’ve only seen 20% of The Plan – Five Points. thanks for the compliment and please realize this “grunt” has much more to offer than showroom behavior,

  • avatar
    nickoo

    Chevy needs to stay down market, Buick needs to be revamped in all product segments, and Cadillac needs to continue to move upmarket.

    Two product channels: Chevy and Buick/Cadillac/gm

  • avatar
    SayHiToYourMom

    GM has two problem as I see it:

    1)Bad product

    2)Bad reputation

    At least if you cured #2, you could stall time until #1 was solved, which it may never be.

    I agree with whomever said that a longer warranty would go a long way to driving sales for the regular consumer. GM would need to increase their quality to backup a 20 year/200,000 mile warranty though. I don’t think 10/100,000 says enough – though it certainly gave Hyundai time to bridge the quality gap. Jim presumes that if more people drove GMs, then they would get more sales, that ignores problem #1: Uncompetitive vehicles.

    I just purchased a new car last month, an Audi S4. I’m helping my friend look for a car, American cars are a non-starter for him. He’s looking at Lexus IS350s and Infiniti G37s. What American cars are even close to those cars? The CTS-V is in the next segment up from the S4, and comes in 5 colors, none of which are exiting. Cadillac has no ability to customize a vehicle to the owners specs like Audi, BMW, and Mercedes offer. Im fairly positive that a Cadillac would be more reliable than my Audi will be, but there is one Cadillac that is remotely close in performance the S4, an the CTS-V was nowhere to be found when I was test driving cars. It’s more than a Halo car, it’s practically a unicorn.

    What does Ford have? Nothing. The Taurus SHO is just not cross-shopped against sports sedans. Lincoln has nothing, and Chevy has nothing close until the SS is released – and it looks JUST like a malibu.

    I would have been tempted by the charger, if it wasn’t gigantic, and you weren’t stuck with horrible interior choices. Look at the interior option colors – black or red; no thanks.

    Lastly, Ford, at least, prices their cars competitively with European auto makers when the product is vastly inferior in every regard, it feels insulting.

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    Buickman’s suggestions may work now, but probably not in 5-10 years.

    I know many people like myself who absolutely hate the dealer experience. Buying a car is an exercise in frustration, and the service experience is worse.

    He has harsh words for the Tesla experience, and I share his scalability concerns with that experience, but to think that next generation buyers will embrace a dealer experience when there is an online alternative is naive.

    There are plenty of available models to choose from when it comes to service. My life is filled with products that need service – Apple computers, Samsung televisions, Whirlpool refrigerators, Bosch washers, Troy Bilt snowblowers…etc. All of these were easier to shop for and buy than a car – and all are serviced in differing ways.

    If the manufacturer services my car to my satisfaction, I don’t necessarily care that the service isn’t happening at a dealer. If a company store or on-site technician can service my product at an affordable price, that’s fine with me.

    The way we buy and service cars now sucks. Direct internet sales and service can only make it better.

  • avatar
    Rday

    The real question is why should we want to save these jerks. They have had their jobs saved by the feds and yet they continue to act and treat their customers like they are not important. why save there jerks. The bankruptcy should have been allowed to go thru and new owners, employees given the chance to start afresh. Instead we have these same nincompoops running the show and some people expect the results to change. they won’t. So we have just postponed the day of reckoning for probably another federal bailout. when does this insanity end??
    Buickman has some good ideas but he is lost and confused and is really part of the old system. Why should he care when so many gm people have treated him so badly? Must be a glutten for abuse.

  • avatar
    Pinzgauer

    The best part of this was the uncomfortable moment when his joke about the other host bombs to epic proportions. That was great.

  • avatar

    *sigh*

    I understand that in 90% of this country you need a car to get to a job to pay for rent and your car and insurance, etc., but I think Buickman is living in a wee bit of a fantasy land.

    I don’t know how many people would actually buy cars from GM if given a free oil change or the like, but I do know that people will be pissed if they realized you just eliminated all the little bullshit rebates to pay for the program. $50 in free maintenance on a car you’re being asked to dump/trade in on a new GM that NOW COSTS $500 more?!?!?

    And how will your potential customers take it when you require them to arrive for said test drive with paystubs in hand. “I’m sorry sir, you only qualify to test drive a used Aveo, not even a new base Spark.” “BUT I WANTED TO DRIVE THE CORVETTE!”

    This is assuming people don’t see the program as a ploy to get their cars in there so the GM techs can break something on purpose to show you that you need a new car. I know MOST of the techs are probably honest people, but you have had some *really* shady high-volume dealers (B_LL H_ARD example springs to mind) from the past.

    Who is going to buy all these new GM vehicles anyway? You’ve got at least TWO lost generations on your hands, full of people who will probably NEVER have the ability to buy a new car. Millenials who have graduated college into one of the worst job markets ever, saddled with Billions in student loan debt which they can’t even get rid of by killing themselves, let alone filing for bankruptcy. And then you have the Baby Boomers, who WILL NEVER be able to retire since the Global Money-Disappearing Event wiped out their entire nest eggs. The people in between these generations, are stuck working for minimum wage $8-10/hr at customer service and fast food jobs that used to be “spare” jobs in our economy, for teens to cut their teeth on their first job and learn responsibility and how to manage money. Now these sad sacks are stuck in these jobs as CAREERS because of the evisceration of the Amercian Middle Class.

    So yeah, face facts, people generally think everybody else is better off than they actually ARE. You assume people have the money or the credit to just go out and blow it all on a new car. You don’t know how bad it is out there and how many millions of people are scraping by paycheque to paycheque and fantasizing about getting Social Security so maybe they can retire to eat cat food one day.

  • avatar

    my apology for the delay in responding to the well thought out comments within this thread. between a sick daughter and my own blown out knee, things have been hectic. I sincerely look forward to sitting back and carefully considering everyone’s opinion. this weekend is looking good.

    $50 Outback Gift Certificate for the best comment. btw, simply agreeing with me doesn’t get you there. I want the best ideas in order to tweak Return to Greatness.

    Buickman
    Founder
    GeneralWatch.com

  • avatar

    after carefully reading this entire thread I would first like to thank everyone for their responses, even the ones from people who have no clue as to what they are attempting to talk about and those who obviously score low in comprehension. you don’t have to agree with me to earn my respect or appreciation but at least have some common sense and pay attention.

    the best thoughts came from (in order of appearance) Sgtyukon, Xeranar, 360joules, philadlj, NormSV650, thegamper, highdesertcat, MyGreenMan, PrinicpalDan, redav, Budda-Boom, and jpolicke.

    the most important take from this is that yes the Extra Mile program would bring bodies into the showroom but it is imperative that the experience be a fantastic one for the prospect, both in the service lane and in the showroom. if we are going to win their hearts and minds, we must put on our best show, even for someone not ready, willing, and able to make an immediate purchase.

    after all, as I continuously stress and emphasize, it really comes down to how you treat PEOPLE.

  • avatar

    oh, I forgot to pick the winner of the $50 Outback gift certificate for best comment. gonna have to read them again and consider the value of the various opinions and inputs.


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