All-out autobahns help engineers
As an American who has been working in the auto industry in Europe for 20 years, I read Keith Crain's June 23 column with particular interest. He wrote about the absence of speed limits on many German autobahns and how that contributes to German engineering.
Many people over here have been trying to convey that idea for several years, and a lot of observers in Germany and elsewhere in Europe have at one time or another indicated that that might be an important 'secret' of German engineering success.
It is, of course, significant that Crain articulated that thought in his column. It can only be assumed that his message will draw the attention of many people in the industry and lead them to further contemplation of what Crain expressed.
KENNETH A. LEVY
and Media Relations
General Motors Europe
How to advance indirect lending
A May 5 article in Automotive News raised the issue of consumer preference for direct financing provided by banks or credit unions over indirect financing originated at the dealership.
The story was based on a used-vehicle finance study by J.D. Power and Associates. It predicted that indirect lenders will lose business to banks and credit unions if dealers don't turn down the pressure in the F&I office.
People in this business have learned the importance of 'relationship' and 'transaction.'
If a customer has a strong relationship with a credit union or bank and does not have a strong relationship with an auto dealer, the customer will likely seek direct financing. Often, those customers call or visit their bank or credit union before they visit the dealership.
Conversely, customers who have strong relationships with the dealer will probably seek indirect financing at the dealership.
There's no question that customers base their feelings about the dealership on their entire experience - from the greeting, through the transaction, to how they're treated in the service department after the purchase.
The secret to increasing indirect lending isn't simply turning down the pressure in the F&I department. Remember, F&I is just one stop along the way for the customer.
Rather, the key is to focus on excellence in customer service and ethics throughout the store.
These days, dealers across the country are dedicating themselves to developing and enacting the best practices in treating customers well and fairly. This intense focus on customer satisfaction is reason for great optimism for the future of indirect lending.
DENNIS D. LAMONT
The writer is a founder of Paragon Acceptance Corp. and is the former chief operating officer of Hyundai Motor Finance Co.
Airbags are costly; are they worth it?
Your June 30 airbag editorial makes a legitimate point about Leonard Evans, but it really doesn't address what are perhaps the two most salient issues in the whole debate.
First, given the total airbag universe put into service in the past 10 years at a cost of, perhaps, $300 per car, the alleged 1,100 lives 'saved' work out to about $25 million per life.
Without joining the debate as to what a life is worth, one can certainly make the point that for that kind of money, there are any number of far more effective safety improvements - from improved highway construction to enhanced vehicle design - that might have been made.
Second, on a purely philosophical level, mandating airbags is analogous to forcing a medical patient to ingest a possibly beneficial medicine that possesses known lethal side effects.
Certainly, some would choose to do so under any circumstances. Others might not.
And while the government has from time to time attempted to impose vaccination programs on schoolchildren, certainly the ratio of those allegedly saved by the vaccine as opposed to those knowingly killed by it never approached that in the airbag debate.
JOHN T. MORZENTI
West Chester, Pa.
Tonkin says thank you
The article I wrote about my experience with prostate cancer, and which you printed June 9, has prompted a deluge of phone calls and many letters.
I know the article will absolutely serve its purpose to bring the importance of a simple PSA test to men who read it as well as to inform those who find they have this cancer that they have options other than radical surgery.
However, thanks should not come to me. Plaudits should go to Automotive News for printing my story, for without visibility, it would have helped no one.
I thank you for having the courage to print what was certainly a non-automotive story, and I am very grateful to you for doing so.
Ron Tonkin Dealerships
Another patient tells of success
I read the June 9 article by Ron Tonkin with great interest, since I had an almost identical experience with prostate cancer at age 52.
I was diagnosed with a PSA of 24.8 last August. By the time I had my seed implantation at the end of January, the PSA was an alarmingly high 29.5. At my three-month checkup, it had fallen to 1.3.
I was treated at the Center for Radiation Therapy, which is associated with the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., by Dr. Gordon Grado, another pioneer in this type of radiation seed therapy.
I applaud Automotive News for carrying the Tonkin article, even though it did not relate to news of the automotive industry. This news needs to reach every man over 40 who reads your publication.
Have your PSA test every year!
ASTAS N.A. imports and exports automotive products.
Lexus candidate explains position
While I applaud the Toyota/Lexus 'commitment to its diversification,' it should never come at the expense of another person's civil rights. However, your June 30 headline, 'Ex-general manager of Lexus store tries to reverse sale to black dealer,' could be construed to imply racial motives on my part, which is certainly not the case.
Indeed, the majority owner of KLH, Gary Kwong, is a member of the Chinese-American minority. We seek a resolution of this conflict that is in keeping with the spirit of equal rights and opportunities for all, which is truly at the heart of America's current values.
Both Lexus and Ed Fitzpatrick had a golden opportunity to promote equal rights. Fitzpatrick has gone through Chrysler's dealer development program and was offered dealer development once again. To award Fitzpatrick the franchise and majority ownership and develop me as an on-premise general manager with minority ownership would have been a win-win situation for all.
This tragic display of corporate power to 'right its own wrongs' should not interfere with the underlying value: equal opportunity for all. Any hard-working citizen of any race, creed or religion, when presented with all the facts, will understand what has taken place here.
The true purpose of equal rights means just that - equal rights for all. After all my hard work and efforts over the years, all I wanted was the same opportunity and chance at the American dream.
Cave Creek, Ariz.
Three cheers for tough unions
I feel I must object to your June 9 editorial, 'UAW must realize bargaining unit is no sacred cow.'
Thank goodness there are unions that can stand up to these inhuman bottom-line companies that claim they can't be competitive, while at the same time they post a record $1.8 billion first-quarter profit.
Tell that to the people whom GM wants to make redundant. I'm sure GM won't be happy until we all live in trees and eat nothing but rice. But then there won't be anybody to buy GM's products.
Three cheers for any union that will go the distance to save even one job.
Fraser Wharves Ltd.
Richmond, British Columbia
Retail shambles? Here's why
I am responding to Jack Leopold's June 9 letter on poor salesmanship.
The reason 'retail auto marketing is a shambles' is the antiquated compensation plans of dealers who do not care how much turnover they have.
Leopold, who has been retired 26 years, does not have to deal with the situations salespeople encounter today.
Secondary deals, in which there is virtually no gross left after having the deal cut to the bone, result in $100 or less for the salesman. How about $300 flat for that type of business?
All of us who have been around for a while understand what it takes to put the deal together. It is not poor schooling or training that results in lost sales. It is a lack of real financial reward that creates a negative reaction from the salesman.
If he knows he can earn only a minimum commission, he will not work two hours for the deal. He will broom people like Rick Kranz of Automotive News (Comment, May 26) and look for a better-gross customer.
Mr. Dealer, good people ain't cheap; cheap people ain't good. Pay your people, give them real benefits, don't flood the floor, and watch your business grow.
Altamonte Springs, Fla.