Nearly a year after General Motors announced plans to reorganize its vast marketing organization, the automaker is struggling to halt falling market share and work in concert with dealers.
Many dealers paint a discouraging picture of the reorganization. In interviews with Automotive News, they said that communication with the new field staff is worse than before and that GM's local advertising lacks coordination with dealers.
Dealer morale also is suffering, a new survey reveals.
Meanwhile, the top GM sales and marketing officials, Roy Roberts and John Middlebrook, are in the hot seat to turn things around. Roberts is group executive of North American vehicle sales, service and marketing. Middlebrook is general manager of vehicle brand marketing.
'You bet, anyone with responsibilities for sales and marketing - and the jobs aren't getting done - are in the hot seat,' said a well-placed GM source.
Roberts said last Friday: 'We saw our sales organization really got a grip on the field' in June. Asked why it took six months to gear up, he said that he was 'very pleased with the progress' the field staff has made and that other corporations have taken longer to accomplish similarly large reorganizations.
'We want to give our regions the resources to turn on a dime,' he said. 'For the first three months they couldn't do any of that because they had to find their home address.'
Michael Grimaldi, 47, was brought in to fix GM's North American field organization. He took over July 1 as general manager of field sales, service and parts.
Grimaldi has little experience with dealers, however, having spent his GM career in Detroit in engineering, corporate-finance and product-planning posts. He declined to comment.
Through June, GM's U.S. market share is down 1.7 percentage points from last year. GM sales rose 1.2 percent this year through June and were up 0.7 percent in June.
Last August, GM announced it would merge its divisional field staffs into a centralized organization. The merger took place Jan. 1. The organization is run largely by five regional general managers.
Many dealers contacted by Automotive News said many field staffers they deal with are still learning their jobs. In many cases, their prior jobs were at different divisions in other geographic areas.
'I get the sense the regional and local people are just about as confused as we are,' said Jim Weston, a Buick-Pontiac-GMC dealer in Portland, Ore. He said he is hopeful the regional system will improve.
Not all dealers are dismayed.
Lou Kalenstein, a Cleveland GMC and Oldsmobile dealer, said responses has been good from both the GM regional staff and ad agency Leo Burnett USA in Chicago. His business is up this year.
Automotive News interviewed 10 dealers representing all five regions.
Dealers agreed there is less communication and there are fewer meetings with the new regional staff than with the former zone-office staff. GM cut 1,000 field jobs, to 4,000, as part of the changes.
The reorganization 'is going to be successful down the road once everyone gets the communications they need,' said a dealer who asked not to be named.
GM retailers ranked last in satisfaction with factory and field relations vs. their counterparts at five leading competitors, according to a survey to be released this week.
SURVEY SHOWS PROBLEMS
GM dealers scored 4.8 points out of a possible 10 in the dealer relations category - down from 5.5 points a year ago - in CNW Marketing/Research's annual Dealer Attitude Survey.
Art Spinella, a vice president at CNW in Bandon, Ore., said 1,782 dealer principals with 4,208 stores were surveyed in June. The dealer relations category included questions about the factory's willingness to supply the vehicles dealers needed, the frequency of field visits and factory relationships.
The GM changes are actually three restructurings: the five regional offices created on Jan. 1; massive Chevrolet joining the computerized Vehicle Order Management System; and the regions taking over regional advertising from the defunct dealer associations on April 1.
The Vehicle Order Management System frustrates many dealers, and GM has acknowledged it has contributed to its tumbling market share this year. Dealers complain that they spend too much time on the system changing orders.
GM says it will fix the system.
Many dealers said they would like more information about what ad coverage they are getting in their areas. In the past, they said, their regional ad agencies would provide them with a media schedule so they could better coordinate their dealerships' ad buys.
At least two regions, the North Central and South Central, will meet with their dealer advisory boards in July to discuss business and explain ad plans.