General Motors has a lot of problems. GM's market share has been dropping consistently for two decades, and there are few indications of a change in sight.
The company's new dealer order-entry system has been a joke. GM can't respond efficiently to dealers or customers who want to order cars and trucks.
But one bright spot has always been GM's enormous and powerful dealer body. GM has more dealers who have been loyal for longer than almost anyone can remember. That dealer body has kept GM's market share from falling even lower.
But GM seems intent on continuing to shoot itself in the foot. And this time, it's using a sawed-off shotgun.
GM is going to acquire hundreds of dealerships in the larger markets. The big concern, according to GM sources, is the fear that left to their own devices, megadealers who have GM and other franchises will sell the vehicles that are easiest to sell, not necessarily GM cars and trucks. How's that for a vote of confidence?
Unlike the Ford Motor Co. experiment in several cities, GM doesn't want to take over a whole market. Ford wants to control a metropolitan market completely. No, GM executives just want to compete with its own dealers in that market.
Not so long ago, General Motors owned some dealerships. GM was very glad to turn them over to entrepreneurs who made them successful.
Does GM want the profit from those stores? As AutoNation learned, acquiring hundreds of dealerships will cost billions of dollars - money that could be better spent on new products and expanded truck capacity.
It's not like GM wants to control the retail experience in an entire market. To be represented in just the occasional store is ludicrous. And it seems almost cruel to put Darwin Clark, the one executive at GM who had the respect and good will of the retailers, in charge of the GM stores.
GM has a lot to fix, both in the United States and internationally. The idea that GM would take a few billion dollars to stick its toe into the retail business - the one part of its business that's been working pretty well - is unfathomable.
It continues to amaze me how GM can go out of its way to alienate its retailers, the one organization that has supported GM through thick and thin. When will GM learn?