Editorial: GM/Chrysler Dealer Cull Explained. Ish.

Jim Brennan
by Jim Brennan

The automotive retail landscape has been dramatically reshaped as both Chrysler and GM together have terminated almost 2,000 dealers as part of their on-going restructuring efforts. They were able to use the bankruptcy process to circumvent strong state franchise laws to shed dealers. At times there appeared to be no rhyme or reason to the selection process, leaving both dealers and consumers perplexed. Last week, as new details and documents surfaced on thetruthaboutcars.com on why certain GM dealership agreements would not be renewed in 2010, Automotive Traveler took an in-depth look at the closing process.

Over the past three weeks, both GM and Chrysler informed many of their dealers that they are now redundant as the restructure. While it was expected that many small rural dealers would be among those cut loose, in Chrysler’s case, many dealers that sold just one of their three (Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep) brands were shut down. In some cases this was unexpected given that some dealerships were in major metro areas and boasted modern facilities. The reason given? That the company was “overdealered” meaning that there were too many dealers and it was impacting all dealers profitability.

In the case of the reasons why that certain Chrysler dealers were terminated, it appears that five criteria were evaluated.

Financial Viability

Dealership Upkeep and Appearance

Competing Brands at the Same Location

Number of Units Sold

Customer Satisfaction Index Scores

Chrysler dealers who might question why they were targeted for elimination probably need only answer the following seven questions:

Did you try and combine your store with a Dodge or Jeep dealer (or sell out to them) if a standalone dealership?

Did you update your showroom and service facility to the franchise-specific plan?

Did you consistently exceed your quota, and strive to increase your market share, even at the expense of gross margins?

Did you support the manufacturer, and exceed your stocking requirements by taking on extra inventory?

Are you financially viable, and consistently profitable (while trying not to hide any excess profits)?

If you have a competing brand, is it at least in a separate location/showroom/facility?

And are you selling more used product than new?

If the dealer answered NO to questions one thru six and YES to question seven, then each dealer can surmise why they were eliminated.

Over at GM, the problem is more complicated given that the Pontiac brand is being eliminated after GM’s recent efforts to build its Buick-GMC-Pontiac sales channel, and that GM is in the process of selling its Hummer, Saturn, and Saab brands. GM dealers will be evaluated based on four criteria to judge their viability. These criteria include:



Customer service

Sales effectiveness.

To be part of the new, post-bankruptcy GM, these dealers have to perform well in all four categories.

For those dealers being eliminated, GM is offering some dealerships from $20,000 to $1 million to wind down their businesses over the next 17 months, the payment based on factors such as brands carried, regional sales rank, and current inventory.

But this payment comes with a cost; if the dealer accepts the payment, GM will not buy unsold inventory, the dealer must agree not to sue GM until their franchise agreement expires, the terminated dealers also will not be allowed to order new cars from GM, and they must stay in business until January, 2010.

And what might be the most onerous condition, a gag order that prohibits terminated dealers to talk to anyone other than its employees without GM’s permission.

Some GM dealers are not accepting the decision without a fight. Some are appealing individual decisions, seeking reinstatement, while others have gone public.

No one has been as public than Gretchen Carlson, host of “Fox and Friends” on the Fox News Channel. Her parent’s dealership, Main Motors in Anoka, Minnesota has been slated to be closed. On June 9 she appeared on “The Glenn Beck Program”, also on FNC, to plead their plight.

To respond, GM had Susan Docherty, its North America Vice President Buick-Pontiac-GMC appear on “Fox and Friends” on June 12 to respond to Ms. Carlson’s charges. The exchange wasn’t pretty, calling into question just how fair and balanced Ms. Carlson and Fox News Channel are, who along with the Fox Business Channel has taken a very vocal and pronounced anti-bailout stance with regard to the auto manufacturers, including saying that the selection of some dealership closings was politically motivated.

[For additional details, including seven supporting videos, read the entire report on Automotive Traveler]

Jim Brennan
Jim Brennan

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  • Ihatetrees Ihatetrees on Jun 18, 2009
    dlfcohn: GM has been in relatively continuous decline for at least 20 years. The dealers, more than anyone else, must have seen this. Given the company’s long-term decline: Why did so many GM dealers remain so dependent on the firm rather than diversifying their businesses or selling-out long-ago? Many good ones did diversify - into import and transplant brands. But there were also some absolutely atrocious, brand-mutilating, POS dealers in the mix. They made their nut with a combination of borderline fraudulent sales tactics, captive UAW/GM employees as customers, toe-tag credit and used cars. If GM gave them crap, they'd always have their local state dealer protection racket law to fall back on. They knew GM would have to pay (see Oldsmobile) to make them go away.
  • U mad scientist U mad scientist on Jun 18, 2009
    The minute the government became involved, they invited the anger to be directed at it. If the government stayed out of it, these closings would simply be agreements between two businesses. Instead, every citizen is now involved, and now has a reason to direct his or her anger at the government. GM and the State are now synonymous, whether you like it or not. Every citizen is involved in the running of the country anyway. That includes businesses whose failure has wide repercussions. Crony men would love nothing more than everyone to look the other way (that way being "government", which is us, instead of them). The abdication of this duty helped create the mess we find ourselves in. - This is no standard Ch. 11 by any means. It actually was. There was a BIG LIE created that it wasn't, and gullible people are helping to propagate that lie. - Bankrupty law has a default distribution, but it can be overridden by a vote of the creditors. In the case of Chrysler, 90% of the secured creditors (it only takes ~2/3rds actually) approved the Chapter 11 settlement. This is not accurate either. S363 sales do not require a vote. However it's 100% correct that the creditor had no legal case, which is why they lost so badly, and have stooped to spreading lies and taking advantage of ignorant people. - So the fix is to solve the credit crisis by bookcasing the problem by giving the banks and the automakers the money thus eliminating and all the while taking it away from consumers AND dealers. Does doesn't make any sense. Without intervention, the banks and automakers basically fail immediately, and then liquidate. Their failure, despite what conservatives may want you to believe, don't have all that much to do with consumers and dealer per se. They either build sh1t cars or created toxic assets. They've become extremely high external costs to our system. The deed is already done. There is no one correctly solution now. The preventions should've been to either price in the costs in the first place, or just forbid the activities that lead to them.
  • VoGhost Key phrase: "The EV market has grown." Yup, EV sales are up yet again, contrary to what nearly every article on the topic has been claiming. It's almost as if the press gets 30% of ad revenues from oil companies and legacy ICE OEMs.
  • Leonard Ostrander Daniel J, you are making the assertion. It's up to you to produce the evidence.
  • VoGhost I remember all those years when the brilliant TTAC commenters told me over and over how easy it was for legacy automakers to switch to making EVs, and that Tesla was due to be crushed by them in just a few months.
  • D "smaller vehicles" - sorry, that's way too much common sense! Americans won't go along because clever marketing convinced us our egos need big@ss trucks, which give auto manufacturers the profit margin they want, and everybody feels vulnerable now unless they too have a huge vehicle. Lower speed limits could help, but no politician wants to push that losing policy. We'll just go on building more lanes and driving faster and faster behind our vehicle's tinted privacy glass. Visions of Slim Pickens riding a big black jacked up truck out of a B-52.
  • NotMyCircusNotMyMonkeys dudes off the rails on drugs and full of hate and retribution. so is musky.