Jim Willingham, chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association, thought he was working toward a reconciliation with General Motors on vehicle ordering and other issues this summer.
Then, out of the blue GM dropped the bomb: It plans to buy as many as 770 of its dealerships. Here is Willing-ham's chronology:
July 28: Thirty top GM dealers and NADA officers meet in Dallas to devise a plan for dealing with GM. They make seven suggestions on items including marketing groups and vehicle ordering. An eighth point, factory stores, is left alone because GM has never discussed it.
Aug. 6: Some dealers and the NADA officers meet with GM executives Mike Grimaldi, Darwin Clark and Roy Roberts. The GM executives say they will look into the suggestions.
Aug. 13: A letter on joint NADA-GM letterhead goes to GM dealers describing the plan to rekindle good will. Willingham and Roberts sign the letter.
Sept. 27: NADA officers meet with GM at the GM Tech Center in Warren, Mich. GM says it will adopt six of the seven suggestions. Then the talk turns to factory stores. Roberts introduces GM Retail Holdings. Said Willingham: 'Roberts dropped the bomb, a nuclear bomb.'