A small GM dealer has a big idea using social media

Dealer Kirk Carroll wants General Motors dealers to like his Facebook page.

Specifically, he wants a lot of GM dealers to click "like" on a reserved Facebook page he created called "GM Facility Image."

Carroll owns Carroll's Auto Sales in Presque Isle, Maine. He's a small dealer who sells about 200 new Chevys, Buicks and GMCs a year.

Yet, like many other GM dealers, he expects to spend a hefty sum in facility upgrades as part of GM's Essential Brand Elements program. He hopes dealers will start using the "GM Facility Image" Facebook page to share cost-cutting tips with one another.

"We're all in the same boat, and we could all help each other," Carroll told me.

So far, many of the dealers in Maine have been exchanging information with each other on their own, he said.

Then he went on to make a sound point: "If we can do it in Maine by word of mouth, think of what a Facebook page can do for dealers across the country."

Under the voluntary program, GM gave dealers a list of vendors that its architectural firm, Gensler, had handpicked. They're very "high end" vendors, Carroll said. But GM is willing to let dealers use different, less expensive, vendors if Gensler approves the alternative choices.

Asked whether dealers should use social media to share cheaper vendor finds, a GM spokesman endorsed it.

"If dealers want to share learnings with each other as to how they're undergoing their projects, that's fine with us," said spokesman Tom Henderson. "There are certain materials and specifications they need to meet, but if they have something they want to submit they can do so. Gensler will approve it if it's appropriate."

GM started an effort two years ago to help dealers defray the cost of store makeovers and to boost sales by enhancing the customer experience. Quarterly payments are based on sales volumes and can total $40,000 to $100,000 a year for smaller dealers and $500,000 or more for big stores, dealers say.

And that's Carroll's point in seeking help from his bigger-store brethren. He hopes vendors and suppliers will join the Facebook page, too, and weigh in on the cost-cutting conversation. After all, Carroll noted: "A guy who sells 1,000 new cars a year is going to get five times more money on this program than the little guy. We should all help each other."

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