With Mercury going the way of Olds and Pontiac, Ford has made much of its intentions to turn its struggling Lincoln brand around. Ford has promised a $2b investment in Lincoln’s product line, and is pushing for the closure of 200 or so Lincoln dealers in order to concentrate the brand’s weak sales at its most successful dealers. But that’s not all. Ford is requiring the surviving Lincoln dealerships to invest heavily, as much as $2m per store, to stay on board the Lincoln Revival Express. But, according to Automotive News [sub], the Lincoln dealers are starting to wonder if they’re being asked for too much. One dealer tells the industry paper
They told us there would be no new products for about 24 months. I don’t know how the stand-alone Lincoln dealers are going to make it, especially those dealers who have to spend $2 million on their upgrades.
Ford has offered several Lincoln stores between $300k and $1.5m to give up ideally-located franchises that they refused to upgrade, but it seems that few dealers are simply rolling over. In fact, the dealer who was offered $1.5m rejected Ford’s offer, calling it “very low” for his profitable franchise. And that’s the polite response. A dealer who was offered less tells AN
“Insulted” isn’t a harmful enough word to describe it. It’s asinine. I’m getting my numbers together and going back. I’m not going to accept this.
Ford, for its part, says the “status quo is not an option,” a position that puts the factory and dealers in place for a nice round of brutal negotiations. And since Ford lacks to the tools to force its entire network to update, it will either have to pay up or live with at least a few remnants of the status quo. And as long as Lincoln’s products remain largely status quo, that’s probably the way it should be.
Ford is in pretty good shape now and it’s quite clear that they’ll survive, provided they don’t fall under the huge amount of debt they have. But don’t be fooled that things are safe at Ford. Especially if you’re a dealer. (Read More…)
We reported yesterday that GM’s recent dealer cull flip-flop was motivated by Chariman/CEO Ed Whitacre’s desire for increased sales volume. Though that may have been the main reason GM took over 600 dealers back into the fold, there was clearly another, more sinister reason for the move: making an example of dissident, activist dealers. Automotive News [sub] reports that GM has contacted all 661 reinstated dealers, and believe it or not, none of the 7 dealer members of the Committee to Restore Dealer Rights have been contacted. Founding member Tammy Darvish tells AN [sub],
The only thing I’m confident of is that I’m sure it’s not a coincidence
Ya think? GM won’t comment on any of the 499 dealerships that haven’t been contacted, but this sends a clear message: mess with The General and you won’t be part of the new push for volume. Darvish and the other rejected dealers still have the arbitration process, but it seems unlikely that any of them will ever be welcomed back into the bosom of GM any time soon.
Even with a government-mandated arbitration process in place, the battle between Chrysler and its 789 culled dealers is a low-down, dirty dogfight. Last week, Chrysler sent out letters to all of its rejected dealers, in its attempt to comply with the arbitration law’s disclosure requirements. But, dealers tell Automotive News [sub], those letters are justifications, but not explanations. Absent concrete evidence for why their franchises were closed (something GM has provided to its culled dealers), lawyers for some 65 rejected dealers are fighting back.
Normally we’re more than a little skeptical of the Center for Automotive Research’s home-town homerism. But then, the Detroit-funded think tank usually has its rose-colored shades firmly in place. This time around, their findings are surprisingly pessimistic. CAR’s chief economist Sean McAlinden tells Reuters
If [Chrysler’s] market share drops to like 6 percent in the next two years, that’s a 40 percent drop in market share and they only dropped their dealerships by 25 percent
With Chrysler’s sales falling by 20 to 50 percent each month since bankruptcy, this strikes us as a very real possibility. Which means dealers hoping to be reinstated by recently passed arbitration legislation will face an uphill slog. And, according to Automotive News [sub], an expensive one. Reinstatement arbitration will carry a pricetag of between $12k and $100k. If Chrysler’s sales continue to decline in the short term, and with no new product on tap they seem certain to, Chrysler may be forced to re-think a number of elements of its much-vaunted turnaround plan.
If you haven’t been following the drama surrounding the effort to restore dealers culled during GM and Chrysler’s bankruptcy, you might need to be brought up to speed. In essence both the cut dealers and the automakers have agreed to send create an arbitration process by which dealers could have the decision to cut their franchise reviewed by a neutral third party. The remaining conflict is over the criteria arbitrators should use to judge dealer viability, as the GM and Chrysler proposition would have forced arbitrators to use the same criteria GM and Chrysler did in the initial cuts. That would obviously have yielded the same results as the initial cull, so the dealers pushed for a set of criteria that is more favorable to their interests. Automotive News [sub] reports that a compromise has been reached in conference committee that would allow dealers to present “any relevant information” to make their case. That bill is now been approved by the House [sub] and is headed to the Senate, where its passage is “virtually assured.” But despite having all but guaranteed an independent review, culled dealers still aren’t happy.
As soon as GM and Chrysler agreed to review their dealer cull decisions, the culled dealers in question began complaining that the review would not improve their situations. According to the aggrieved dealers, the new review would be based on the same allegedly flawed data as the initial cull, meaning nothing would be changed. By GM’s own admission, only 39-51 of the over 1,000 dealers cut would even stand a chance at reinstatement. Now, Automotive News [sub] reports that a new measure has passed the House of Representatives which would allow dealers to “present any kind of relevant information during the arbitration.” The measure comes in the form of an amendment to the House Financial Services bill, which is headed to a conference committee in which House and Senate leaders must arrive at a compromise in order to send the bill to President Obama.
The recent revelation that congresspeople have been successful in coercing GM to rescind dealer closures in their districts, has the rest of our elected representatives (not to mention GM itself) sitting up and taking notice. In a conference call with Michigan’s congressional delegation, Fritz Henderson said GM was close to a deal which would restore a number of “mistakenly” closed dealerships. But GM hasn’t met with rejected dealers in weeks, and the Committee To Restore Dealer Rights is unaware of any such agreement. “[Henderson] was very vague, and the plan sounded inadequate to me,” Michigan Republican Hoekstra tells Automotive News [sub]. “He explained, for instance, that they might reopen some franchises if they found errors, but he didn’t say what those errors might be.” Henderson also rejected the dealer demand for compensation of $3,000 per vehicle sold in 2006, 2007 and 2008, further supporting suspicions that GM doesn’t have a deal at all. So what is happening? (Read More…)