GM’s small-town dealers will get more face time

DETROIT — General Motors will change its Dealer Business Center in September to give small-town stores more face-to-face contact with GM representatives.

The move continues a series of steps GM has taken to improve dealer relations under Bill Lovejoy, group vice president for vehicle sales, service and marketing.

Dealers say such efforts are helping GM to emerge from an era of mistrust. “I have the best feeling today that I’ve had in 20 years as far as the relations between GM and its dealers,” said John Bergstrom, owner of Bergstrom Automotive in Neenah, Wis.

As part of the business center changes, GM will move personnel from Detroit to GM’s five regional field offices, said Darwin Clark, vice president and general manager for industry-dealer affairs.

The center maintains phone contact with small-town dealers who don’t receive regular visits from field representatives. At the same time, GM will switch many dealers from phone contact to direct visits by field personnel.

As a result, direct contact will be extended to more than 600 GM dealers who previously had telephone contact, Clark said.

Other steps GM has taken include:

  • Reforming the Vehicle Order Management System. GM now allows dealers more autonomy in ordering vehicles, rather than having them allocated by GM. The company also instituted a policy that any sold vehicle that is not “constrained” by short supply will get priority. The result, said Michael Grimaldi, vice president and general manager for field sales, service and parts, is that “VOMS does not appear at the top of the list anymore of major issues” about which dealers complain.

  • Simplifying product lines. Dealers have requested that GM reduce build combinations, “and to a certain extent I have to say we’re finally listening,” Grimaldi said.

  • Modifying plans for local area marketing groups. Local dealers were leery of using GM’s national advertising agencies for the new groups, so GM has required the national agencies to work with agencies that have local retail experience, Grimaldi said.
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