Ford buyout plan may not work
In his Dec. 7 letter, Mark Porcaro attributed Ford's dealer takeover strategy to 'corporate greed.'
Greed, however, is not in itself an unacceptable objective. It would be acceptable if it succeeded in enriching Ford. That result is far from certain.
Ford derives its profit from selling vehicles to dealers and financing inventory and customer purchases. Drastic reduction of your dealer and/or customer base, while driving through an unfamiliar retail terrain, is not a sure-fire success formula for a mass-market automaker.
What are Ford's retail credentials? How many cars have Ford theorists retailed in their lives? Will Ford's dealer-collaborators operate Ford enterprises more successfully than they ran their own? Will sales and customer satisfaction improve sans salespersons with earned reputations and customer followings?
How will Ford compete with its independent dealers? Price fixing and favoritism in distribution for company stores will lead only to legal challenges and government intervention.
Jac Nasser's challenge is to increase earnings by selling more product. Investment in product design and engineering (the success formula of the former Chrysler Corp.) may be a better path to pursue. Ford's excursion into manipulative marketing may not work. Cartels and company stores are really outdated concepts.
Fuller: Charismatic, extraordinary
I'd like to elaborate on David Versical's Dec. 21 column on the 10th anniversary of Jim Fuller's death in the crash of Pan Am Flight 103. I was privileged to know Jim while I was CEO of World Wide Volkswagen-Audi, VW's largest distributor, and also as a multifranchise dealer. So I knew him well in both the wholesale and retail environments.
Jim Fuller was an extraordinary and charismatic man. We visited dealers together when I was running World Wide. The first thing he would ask the dealer principal was not, 'How many did you sell last month?' but 'What is your ROI (return on investment), year to date?'
At each visit, that remarkable man had memorized the names of the dealer's wife and children and, yes, he even knew their ages. Mind you, this was not a factory executive trying to ingratiate himself with dealers; this was an emotional, dynamic, motivated man who loved people.
One more reminiscence of a great person: Shortly after I resigned from World Wide to become a multifranchise dealer, there was a dealer meeting in Silverado, Calif. I attended with mixed feelings; after all, I was no longer king of the hill, but just another dealer (it was a difficult transition).
On the final afternoon, a note was slipped under the door of my room listing the seating assignments for that night's banquet. Guess what? Harriet and I were to be seated at the table of honor with Fuller.
I called and thanked him and pointed out that he had many VIPs to consider before me, like the president of the dealer council. Jim heard me out and said, 'Rainer, I don't forget my friends. You and Harriet are sitting with me.'
So I thank Versical from the bottom of my heart for writing about Jim Fuller. He was truly great in stature and in moral leadership. Had he lived, he would have accomplished great things in our industry. I will always remember him and keep him in my heart.
Longboat Key, Fla.
Tracker Plus isn't the only one
In your Nov. 23 article, 'Software helps small used-car lots keep track,' Pete Pinnock, president of Manheim Tracker Plus, says his company has no competitors that nationally market dealership management software for independent dealers.
That is simply not true.
CAT Systems' products include software for independents. We offer features and benefits similar to those described in your article, and CAT products, such as Collector II and Turbo-CAT, compete directly with Tracker.
We are sold in every state and in three countries. We have marketed nationally for more than 10 years, using telemarketing and national publications. We have advertised in Automotive News for many years. I wonder how anyone could describe that as 'regional.'
We make it our business to know our competition, and I assure you that there are other national competitors in this market. They also advertise in this publication.
It would be wise to check the accuracy of such sweeping statements. In this case, you could have begun by perusing the ads in your own publication.
National Marketing Manager
Kansas City, Mo.
His '42 motorbike ran like a CVT
The CVT (continuously variable transmission) is not 'young' technology, as implied in your Oct. 19 article.
In 1942, I used a Simplex Servicycle (a motorized bicycle) to get to high school. It used the basic CVT system.
A drawback was the difficulty in changing ratios if the belt was not in motion.
The writer is an automotive historian.
PNGV may need a new focus
Is the honeymoon over for DaimlerChrysler? They seem to be disagreeing already.
In his new role at DaimlerChrysler, former Chrysler spokesman Reginald Modlin asserts that diesels are the 'only' technical option for the 80-mpg supercar program, the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles. 'There's nothing else on the list,' he said in 'CARB ruling puts PNGV future in doubt' (Dec. 7).
Modlin seems to be ignoring DaimlerChrysler's better half. In 1997, Daimler announced plans to bring tens of thousands of fuel-cell vehicles to market within the PNGV time frame.
DaimlerChrysler is not the only company with clean and efficient technologies on the horizon. Three other makers plan to have commercial fuel-cell vehicles ready by 2004, and the Toyota Prius is scheduled to reach the United States in 2000. Those high-efficiency vehicles can reduce global warming gases and meet California's new emissions standards.
Perhaps the diesel also can meet those standards eventually. But automakers' lack of confidence in whether that is technically feasible suggests that the PNGV needs a midcourse correction.
By refocusing on inherently clean and highly efficient technologies, such as fuel cells, the PNGV can ensure that the new generation of vehicles fulfills next-generation global and air-quality needs.
CANDACE J. MOREY
Union of Concerned