Hesterberg leaves Nissan
Earl Hesterberg, who led Nissan to sales gains in the United States and abroad this decade, has left the company to run Gulf States Toyota Inc.
Hesterberg, 45, will replace Jerry Pyle as president of the Houston-based distributor, which serves 140 dealers in five states. Pyle will remain president and CEO of Friedkin Automotive Cos., Gulf States' parent firm.
After Hesterberg became vice president of sales for Nissan Europe in September 1996, Nissan Europe sales ended a four-year skid. Before that, Nissan's U.S. sales under Hesterberg stopped a six-year slide, soaring from 548,460 in 1991 to 722,958 in 1994.
Hesterberg's post at Nissan Europe will be filled by Hartmut Kieven, 52.
Kia strike in 3rd week
The Kia Motors Corp. strike is headed into its third week with little prospect for a resolution. The 13,000 unionized workers are demanding job security and payment of bonuses and other production incentives that account for some 40 percent of employee wages.
With year-to-date sales down by more than 50 percent and creditor banks pressing Kia to downsize, analysts say the company cannot afford to meet workers' demands.
According to Kia, the strike is costing the company 1,100 cars per day. Kia officials say the current inventory of 21,000 units is sufficient to carry the company for another several weeks. Kia's overseas distributors have more than a two months' supply.
Kia begins national ads
Kia Motors America breaks its first national campaign on cable TV today, June 15.
The $25 million push wraps up the regional rollout started in 1994, reports Advertising Age, a sister publication to Automotive News.
Kia said this year it expects to double its ad budget from the $37 million recorded by Competitive Media Reporting in 1997.
The company will begin the push with two existing ads for the Sephia small car and two for the Sportage sport-utility from agency Goldberg Moser O'Neill of San Francisco.
The commercials tout Kia's actual 200,000-mile endurance drives and tests in rental fleets. The brand is positioned as having quality and being affordable and approachable.
Best dealers get new signs
To give its top-rated dealers more visibility, Chrysler Corp. has created new dealership signs with the Five Star logo.
The rating used to be based on customer satisfaction scores. But to earn Five Star certification, dealers now must overhaul their business procedures and implement new ones, such as making follow-up calls to every service customer. The company has 800 Five Star dealers certified under the new procedures.
The signs were unveiled to the media at dealerships in Garden City, Mich.; San Jose, Calif.; and East Hanover, N.J.