Forget about Europeans complaining about missing parts. Over in America, there is an acute car shortage. Dealers blame who they always blame: The manufacturers. “They’ve cut back production so much that we’ve run out of cars,” Boston dealer magnate Herb Chambers tells his hometown paper, the Boston Herald. He says he had to “beg, borrow and steal” Cadillacs from dealers in other parts of the country. Down at the South Shore, dealer Dan Quirk loses 60 to 90 sales a month. “The Big Three just don’t have enough manufacturing capacity any more,” kvetches Quirk. “Some of the automakers, particularly General Motors, closed a lot of their plants when the meltdown hit.” Supposedly it’s not just a Bostonian phenomenon. Supposedly. At closer look, it might be a fire breathing, rip-snorting chimera. (Read More…)
Dealerships are a pain in the neck. The salesman tries to convince you that they’re your friend (when you know damn well they want as much money as they can squeeze out of you), getting warranty work out of them is sometimes a nightmare and, if you’re buying used, you don’t know what the car has been through. You can write a letter of complaint, but will that really help*? You may get a discounted service as compensation, but will anything REALLY change? Well, BMW wants to shake the dealership experience up a bit. In the customers’ favor. (Read More…)
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.