GMC EYES FEB. REORGANIZATION PLAN

LOS ANGELES - The head of GMC Truck says he'll 'turn the organization upside down' if that's what it takes to get his division in better shape.

Roy Roberts, GMC Truck general manager, says GMC doesn't have the right people in the right places, needs to communicate better with dealers and must improve the way vehicles are delivered.

Roberts discussed his plans with Automotive News at General Motors' annual holiday reception here.

Like Oldsmobile, GMC Truck has hired Gemini Consulting Inc. of Morristown, N.J., to conduct a efficiency study.

But unlike Oldsmobile, whose U.S. star has faded, GMC is working from strength. Its 2,450 dealers sold a record 392,843 light trucks last year, and sales were up 13 percent for the first 11 months of this year. The effort is part of a broader program to raise the profile of GMC in the U.S. market.

GMC doesn't expect to receive complete results of the study until early next year. But the study already has revealed enough for GMC to launch a pilot restructuring in the Chicago zone in February, Roberts said.

GMC Truck has about 100 dealers in the Chicago zone. About 95 are dualed - mostly with Buick, Pontiac and Oldsmobile. The pilot program will last two months. Then, GMC Truck plans to assess it, revise it and go national by late summer, Roberts said.

Among the things Roberts wants to fix:

Inexperienced field staff. The headquarters staff, on the other hand, has plenty of experience.

'We'll turn the organization upside-down, and put our most experienced people in the field, if that's what it takes,' Roberts said. 'There are too many smart people doing dumb work, and that has to change.'

That part of the study mirrors Oldsmobile's study, which showed that the field staff didn't have enough experience to help dealers solve their problems.

GMC doesn't plan layoffs, but shuffling employees and departments to make the division more efficient is definitely possible, Roberts said.

'If the business is growing, you want to be efficient so you don't have to add head count. That way, attrition will take care of head count surplus when the worm eventually turns ... and it always does,' Roberts said.

Poor communication with dealers.

'There's a lot of messages from headquarters going to everybody, so the dealer is inundated with stuff,' Roberts said.' We need to ask ourselves if we are doing stuff that is repetitious, or if it is meaningful. We need to see what adds value in the process.'

Roberts already has put that part of the plan into action. GMC Truck brass used to meet only with the dealer council, then send memos to the rest of the dealers about what happened. Now, GMC Truck management will conduct about three dozen meetings with regional dealer groups within two months of each dealer council meeting.

In contrast, Oldsmobile believes it has spent too much time trying to reach all its dealers. It will now concentrate on its top 900 outlets.

The allocation process must be improved.

Roberts wants to modify GMC's computerized system to show a dealer his own allocation, as well as his neighboring dealers' allocations. That way, the process has accountability.

'Our main problem right now is not enough product,' Roberts said. 'We get calls from dealers saying, 'I don't have any trucks, but the guy down the street has a full lot. What's going on?' We have to show the dealers that the allocations are not done just on a whim.'

Roberts also wants to simplify the ordering process and speed up deliveries to dealers.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------GMC FIX LIST

Put more experience in the field

Communicate better with all dealers

Improve vehicle delivery

You can reach Mark Rechtin at mrechtin@crain.com

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