A few days ago Ford reported that 35 percent of the Lincoln dealers are superfluous and should be sent out to pasture – to avoid the word “cull.” The metro areas appear to have a particular overabundance of Lincoln dealers. According to Mark Fields, President of Ford Americas, this is where “the efficiencies” need to come from. The news didn’t go down too well. The Freep quoted one dealer. “It was a somber day,” said Larry Taylor, Lincoln-Mercury dealer near Dayton, Ohio, “I’m secure. But there are some guys who have had a store for 50, 60 years who are going to have to give that up.” Mark Fields, President of Ford Americas is adamant: “We are fully committed to transforming Lincoln into a world-class luxury brand.” Now Ford is upping the ante against uppity Lincoln dealers. (Read More…)
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…)
When I had business at Volkswagen, arriving at Wache Sandkamp, I was always asked whether I have a cell phone on me. “Ja,” I said. “Does it have a camera?” “Nein,” I said. The guard didn’t want to see the phone, and I could keep it.
At Chrysler’s big dealer convention, to be held in September in Orlando, they won’t be so lenient. Dealers have already been told to leave all cell phones, video equipment and cameras in their hotel rooms. To ward off the intrusion of rogue recording equipment, metal detectors will be put up at the show’s entrance. (Read More…)
Chrysler is doing better than GM. At least when it comes to winning arbitration cases brought by culled dealers. GM lost both cases brought against them. Chrysler bats much better. (Read More…)
It’s a little-known fact that nearly half of the 2,000 or so dealer franchises that GM began winding down during bankruptcy were Cadillac stores, most of them located in rural areas. The General’s plan was to focus Cadillac’s dealer network on standalone stores in major metropolitan areas, following the strategies of more premium luxury competitors like BMW and Lexus. But having marked 922 largely small-town Caddy dealers for death, GM saw 2009 sales of its luxury brand fall 15 percent, or twice the rate of Buick and Chevrolet in the same period. The lesson: small-town Cadillac dealers (like attempts to sell the brand in Europe) are worthwhile after all. Automotive News [sub] reports, the majority of those dealers being reinstated are small-town Cadillac dealers. Will Cadillac’s brand integrity suffer by having to serve the small-town American market as well as competing with the European brands? Probably, but at least Caddy dealers can take heart knowing that things could still be worse: they could be Lincoln-Mercury dealers.
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
GM and Chrysler were already culling dealers before their bankruptcies, which hastened the process. Many of those dealerships were profitable businesses, often family owned, whether or not they were ultimately an asset to the parent automakers. Dealers have established regional brand equity, being major advertisers in their markets. The dealers losing their franchises have explored what few options they have. There are lobbying efforts at the state and national levels to protect the affected dealers with some kind of legislation. Some have signed up with Hyundai & Kia, as the low priced Korean automakers thrive in the recession. Others, recognizing that new car sales are often a wash, and that repair service and used car sales are profit centers, have stayed in business as used car dealerships or automotive service centers.
Now Sears Roebuck & Co. has offered some of those culled dealers another lifeline. Banking on the reputation of its DieHard battery brand as well as being one of the country’s leader tire retailers, Sears is launching the Independent Sears Auto Center franchise program, starting with a former Chrysler dealer in New Jersey, the Coleman Auto Group. Participating stores will offer Sears’ full automotive product line of batteries, tire, accesories as well as repair services and replacement parts.
The Standard Of The World meets cold reality, as the prominent Detroit-area Cadillac dealer, Dalgleish Cadillac, calls it a night. The Detroit News, which eulogizes the dealership “with bitterness, hope and history bound together,” reports that the Dalgleish Cadillac building will become a high-tech business incubator run by Wayne State University’s Tech Town.
Grand news for owners of 1999 model year and later Pontiacs! Buick-GMC GM Brian Sweeney tells Automotive News [sub] that “one of our most important tasks is keeping [Pontiac owners] in the database and keeping them as service customers until such a time that the Buick portfolio has developed fully.” The plan: send owners of 1999 model-year and later Pontiacs coupons for free tire rotations and oil changes. GM sales boss Susan Docherty has spoken about the importance of these “free agents,” or GM buyers orphaned by the cutting of their brands. As well she should: it’s more cost effective for any business to keep existing buyers than win over new ones. But is it free oil change easy? If GM thinks it can make Buick believers out of the jilted Pontiac faithful, what does it say about the cynicism with which it approaches branding? Once again, GM’s need to build lost Pontiac volume for the Buick-GMC dealer net leads to the willful suspension of common sense.
We also recognize there is a market (for the Nano) not only in developing countries, but possibly in the developed countries. For the United States we need a car which has a larger engine and we need additional crash test modifications and we are in the process of doing it.
Ratan Tata at today’s India Auto Expo [via Automotive News [sub]], suggesting that the world’s cheapest car could eventually be sold in the US. Fiat is already partnering with Tata to jointly sell the Nano in Latin American markets, so there’s a chance that the Indian city car could eventually show up at Chrysler dealerships.
According to Reuters, GM has sent a letter to its dealers offering $7,000 for every new Saturn or Pontiac they can move to a rental or service fleet between now and January 4. The plan would essentially make dealers the first buyer of the remaining Pontiacs and Saturns, which would then be operated as fleet vehicles or be sold as low-mileage used cars. In any case, the single objective is clear: get those dead brands off the books at all costs. With 7,900 vehicles left at Pontiac as of the 14th of December and upward of 5,000 left at Saturn as of the beginning of the month, the cost to GM could easily approach $100m. But as they say in the advertisements, their loss is your gain…. as long as you’re interested in one of the G6s or Auras that dominate the dead-brand straggler inventory. Where’s Oprah when you need her?
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.
As congress nears the end of the 2009 legislative session, culled GM and Chrysler dealers are pushing hard for the rapid passage of the Automobile Dealer Economic Rights Restoration Act. Meanwhile, nearly two dozen members of the Senate Commerce Committee from both parties are calling on GM and Chrysler to resolve outstanding disputes with culled dealers in hopes of defusing the situation by non-legislative means.
Given the federal government’s ownership stake in Chrysler and GM, it is our shared obligation to ensure all impacted dealers are treated as fairly as possible. We continue to urge you to take all actions necessary to uphold the assurances you provided earlier, as well as to achieve a mutually agreeable and timely outcome to the negotiations between Chrysler, GM and the dealers. Chrysler and GM’s unprecedented bankruptcy has greatly impacted dealers, consumers, employees, small businesses, and communities across the country. It is crucial that outstanding issues be resolved as expeditiously and efficiently as possible to provide the least amount of hardship to Chrysler, GM and the dealers.
GM’s response to the senatorial call out? “Those discussions are still underway,” according to spokespeople, who refused to characterize the discussions for Reuters. Meanwhile, two examples of possible mitigating action by GM and Chrysler are not off to good starts.
The long-rumored Chinese invasion may be coming sooner than we expected. Automotive World reports that Chinese automaker Brilliance has signed letters of intent with 36 US dealers in preparation for a US market launch. According to the report, Brilliance intends to launch products in the US as soon as it acquires 100 dealers. Apparently Brilliance’s US distributor is targeting former Saturn dealers, Roger Penske’s US network, Hummer dealers and the Galpin group. Rumors are even swirling that Brilliance could buy the Saturn name to re-brand its US-market products.
You might have thunk that car dealers would stop being skunks, what with the economy going thunk and the end of cash for clunk. But noooooooo. If anything, tough times have seen an increase amount of the same old story, same old song and dance down at the car lot. “You pay what we pay is back!” Little Rhody’s Flood Automotive Group proclaimed, before switching to free tires for life. And what of this? WYTV in Ohio reports [breathlessly] that Greenwoods Hubbard Chevrolet brought in the punters by selling used cars for $5. “Denny Denoi, General Manager of Greenwoods Hubbard Chevrolet said, ‘It’s just something that we wanted to do instead of taking some of these older cars to the auction we decided we would just sell them to the people of the Valley.’” That said, “The catch with this $5 car sale is that there were only 3 cars for $5, and those 3 lucky people’s names were actually pulled from a box.” But that’s OK, right? “Denoi said the sale was a success, and that most of the customers left the dealership happy, even though they didn’t get to drive away with a car for $5. ‘There’s [sic] some people who walked away with some great deals and some people who needed some cars that got some good transportation, and for the most part, I think 95-percent of the people are thrilled today.’” I wonder if GM’s new Sales Maven Susan Docherty will take that one national.