D/C exec whacks Ford design chief
Great design is unquestionably critical to the success of any automobile, and it has been especially important to our success at DaimlerChrysler, so I will not in any way disparage the design discipline as Ford's J Mays was quoted to have disparaged the advertising discipline (Automotive News, Jan. 11).
At the same time, I wonder how Mr. Mays expects people to know about his designs in the first place if somebody doesn't tell people about them through one form of advertising or another.
Maybe he was misquoted or taken out of context but, if not, it's frustrating that a senior executive of an automobile company would take cheap shots at any other corporate discipline than his own. Whatever happened to the notion that every member of the team has an important role in the success of the company?
Senior Vice President
Auburn Hills, Mich.
Heitmann ignores the dealer's side
I must take issue with the thoughts and comments of Henrich Heitmann, chairman of BMW (US) Holding Corp. (Jan. 18). He spoke at the Automotive News World Congress.
Heitmann raises concern because, in his view, the manufacturer 'transfers' a vehicle to the dealer, who leases or sells it through the captive finance company and pockets the profit.
He doesn't mention the profit made by the manufacturer in selling (not transferring) the vehicle to the dealer. That profit is substantially greater per unit than the dealer realizes on each sale and is a prime reason for the manufacturers' healthy profits.
Concerning the risk of financing a vehicle, which the finance company assesses and approves or rejects, Heitmann again neglects to mention the sizable profit made by the finance company on the loan.
Again, that profit far exceeds the dealer's profit on financing reserves. Where should the risk be placed if not on the party realizing the greatest gain, which also contributes to those enormous manufacturer profits.
Also, no mention is made of the dealer's tremendous investment in facilities and upkeep, goodwill expenditures and money spent on advertising the product and building customer and community relationships.
It would appear that Heitmann's comments are one-sided and self-serving.
MARK W. PORCARO
Clinton Car & Truck (ChevroletCadillac-Ford-ChryslerPlymouth-Jeep)
And now, a word from Saturn's side
I am responding to 'Pontiac dealer claims Saturn was a mistake from the start' by John Schmelz in your Jan. 4 issue.
Schmelz suggests that Saturn is the cause of many of his sales problems. He does not understand why General Motors had to change its game plan. He thinks Saturn casts a shadow over the rest of GM. Pontiac, according to Schmelz, also is suffering a lack of research and development.
Saturn was created to compete with imports and share our knowledge with GM. Apparently, that had to be done because the other divisions were already losing market share.
Schmelz asked, 'Couldn't GM see that just about every Saturn sale would be at the expense of its own starving car divisions?' However, approximately 70 percent of Saturn buyers would have bought an import if they had not bought a Saturn.
The Saturn image was necessary to get away from the image that GM divisions had already created. If that image had been exemplary, we would not have needed to be different.
Schmelz also leads one to believe that Saturn is getting all GM's money, leaving nothing but scraps for everyone else. Since Saturn went on sale in 1990, there have been tweaks to our power plants and a reskinning of our models.
Meanwhile, GM divisions have completely revamped their lineups and added models. It's amazing how far a few scraps can go.
I think it's time the other GM divisions realized who was responsible for Saturn in the first place.
Saturn of York Road
'Personal touch' is fading away
In the early days, it was said that a man had to have 'gasoline in his blood' to survive as an auto dealer. Selling a car was a personal matter.
Today, the auto dealer has lost his public image. No longer is a potential customer looking to 'buy' a car. He thinks only of monthly payments, not ownership. Hence, the power of leasing. The credit industry and the automakers have transformed the buyer into a lessee.
Changing times? The personal touch is waning; the conglomerates have invaded our shores. Our retail auto business, which had a personal touch in each town, will soon disappear.
Now in addition to Republic Industries, UnitedAuto Group and a dozen more publicly held corporations, Ford Motor Co. has invaded the retail business in many areas. Will General Motors also grasp at straws? The former Chrysler Corp. is no longer part of the Big 3.
As a franchised auto dealer for 60 years, I've seen changes from the days when a dealer could have only one franchise (and no dualing) to today when one group soon will dictate to the manufacturer the mix of cars that will be accepted.
In my day, we paid the manufacturer cash on the barrel head for every unit we bought. Today, the floorplan governs sales and inventories to a great extent.
I invite comments from people who are seriously concerned about the direction in which our industry is headed.
JACK H. LEOPOLD
The writer is a retired auto dealer.
Image of retailing must be improved
Two recent letters from Chrysler salespeople regarding a lack of incentive for high Sales Satisfaction Indexes highlight elements of change necessary to improve the public's perception of automotive retailing.
Manufacturers that recognize the importance of salesperson retention to customer satisfaction will respond with compensation and education programs that enable them to compete for employees and customers in today's market.
More importantly, salespeople should be responsible for their public image. High customer satisfaction is important because it brings repeat, referral and word-of-mouth business.
You must do your job right if you want to succeed. The public's respect for the industry will follow self-respect in the way business is transacted.
Dealer bodies that fail to embrace that concept will, hopefully, suffer for the error of their ways.
The writer is a member of the Toyota Sales Society, and works with his dealership's customer retention effort.