A group of General Motors dealers has drawn up its own agenda to improve the automaker's marketing in the wake of declining market share.
The group was tentatively scheduled to meet with top GM executives on Friday, Aug. 6.
The dealers organized under the auspices of the National Automobile Dealers Association. Lou Kairys, NADA's chairman of industry relations, said the group would not reveal its proposals until GM had had a chance to react.
He confirmed that the proposals center on marketing.
The dealers, smarting over recent glitches in GM's regional ad reorganization, are seeking input in early stages of ad campaigns and new-vehicle programs, said one source. Some dealers said they have been left uninformed at times about breaking ad campaigns.
Dealers are suggesting several ways to improve 'timeliness of product' and GM's vehicle-ordering system, Kairys said.
Mike Morrissey, NADA media relations director, said 50 GM dealers representing a cross section of GM brands met in late July after frustrations about the automaker had erupted at an NADA board meeting.
He described NADA's subsequent role as 'almost like a peace process that we're going through here.'
GM car sales were up 8.6 percent for the first seven months, and light-truck sales were up 5.2 percent. Overall U.S. sales were up 8.8 percent through seven months.
Although it earned a record $1.7 billion in second-quarter net income, GM has seen its U.S. light-vehicle market share fall from 30.1 percent to 29.5 percent from the first seven months of 1998 to the same period of this year.
'I don't think it's any surprise that GM dealers have quite a few concerns,' Morrissey said, adding that at the July meeting 'people vented their frustrations on a variety of issues.'
But the group decided to work constructively with GM rather than attacking programs or individuals. The dealers' proposals represent issues on which the group reached consensus.
GM's decision to move advertising from local dealer groups to regional field offices has cost it 'hometown input,' Morrissey noted.
The policy also has spawned lawsuits by dealer groups in Chicago and Indianapolis over advertising fees.
TOO LATE TO CHANGE
Dealers feel GM tends to present vehicle programs and ad campaigns after it is too late to make substantial changes.
Frank Ursomarso, of Union Park Pontiac-GMC in Wilmington, Del., said the field-staff reorganization has caused communications gaps.
Regional offices lacked information about past ad buys, he said, and they were slow to set up dealer advisory councils and failed to tell dealers about new advertising.
'The first time a dealer would know about an ad would be when he would open up the newspaper,' Ursomarso said. 'You had a period of time from about January to late June when things were a work in progress.'
GM has been 'very receptive,' said Kairys, whose Lustine Automotive Group is in Woodbridge, Va., and includes GM brands. 'We haven't approached them in a wrongful way.'