All stories lead back to dealers

We have lots of comments posted about auto dealers these days. The situation facing auto dealers is certainly in the news.

But when those stories are about failed dealers, an economic crisis, factories shedding floorplan financing and lenders treating the few consumers who want to buy a car like plague-carriers, dealers donít necessarily want the attention.

The closing of Bill Heard Enterprises, the No. 13 U.S. dealer chain, has drawn the most comment. Among dozens of posts, most deplored Heardís business practices, but some noted General Motorís willingness to overlook complaints as long as Heard delivered huge Chevrolet sales volume.

In fact, when Automotive News Industry Editor James B. Treece said this week in an opinion piece that GM wanted it both ways, two who identified themselves as former GM dealers quickly posted comments agreeing with him.

Earl Stewart says when he was a Pontiac dealer, manufacturer executives grew to value customer satisfaction scores more than customers themselves. He recommended using CSI scores only for internal use and instead measuring how many dealer customers returned for service or bought another car there.

Theodore Fisher,a New York-state Chevrolet dealer for 57 years, says high-volume dealers with far lower CSI scores than him usually got more hot models, adding ďIt comes back to the ones who move the metal get the perks.Ē

Several other writers posted about the effect of federal intervention in financial markets.

One writer notes layoffs of ďmarketing reps and other employees due to this decline in salesĒ and hopes the industry can last if the recovery is not before 2010.

Another worries about effectiveness: ďWhere is the guarantee that auto retail paper will be bought and at what level?Ē

Itís usually nice to be noticed, but I think most dealers would be happier to have the news spotlight back on auto manufacturers and suppliers.

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