Jerry Seiner is countering the Utah Auto Collection with a consolidation of his own.
In the last 18 months, the Salt Lake City General Motors dealer has acquired an Oldsmobile franchise, two Pontiac franchises and a Cadillac store. With the two Buick franchises, a Chevrolet franchise and two GMC Truck franchises he already had, that gives him a full portfolio of GM brands. He has also snatched up nearly 30 acres of prime real estate with easy freeway access.
By mid-2001, Seiner plans to have GM 'super centers' operating at the north end, the south end, and smack in the middle of the Salt Lake City metro area. He expects his GM sales to grow to as many as 4,000 retail units annually from a 1998 pre-expansion rate of 2,200.
'I came up with the concept wanting to be competitive with the (Utah Auto) Collection,' he says. 'They woke me up.'
Seiner, 57, is a car guy and a marketeer from way back. His father was Henry Ford's personal electrician. In 1975, Seiner left his job as advertising manager for The Wall Street Journal in Detroit. Using the equity in his house and cashing in his profit-sharing, he raised $50,000 to buy his first dealership in Cadillac, Mich. - a Chevrolet-Buick store.
THE GM GUY
Today, Seiner's banking on buyers to think of him as their go-to-guy for life for GM cars and trucks.
He's even dubbed himself 'The GM Guy,' with his own line of logo-bearing baseball caps and coffee mugs. He's building 'The GM Guy' brand through traditional advertising and subtler messages such as changing his Web address from 'jerryseiner.com' to 'gmguy.com.'
Seiner calls it 'co-branding' with GM, whom he considers a partner, without sacrificing his independence.
'I was not told how to name it or how to advertise,' he says, and GM is not putting up any money. 'So it's based on the old entrepreneurial spirit and style.
A SEED IS PLANTED
The Utah Auto Collection may have served as a catalyst for Seiner. But the seed was planted several years ago. GM told Seiner he needed to add franchises in new locations, but nothing in Salt Lake City was for sale. Once consolidation became an industry trend, however, some dealers began rethinking their future, Seiner says. He started making deals.
Like Ford's Collection, Seiner's super centers will consolidate all GM brands under a single corporate umbrella. The added efficiencies should save him money.
And he's exploring 'relationship marketing' strategies such as database management and focus groups. He wants to 'take the pulse' of his 32,000 owners through communication that goes beyond the traditional sales and service mailings.
In total, Seiner's investing about $20 million in his vision. He has been operating as 'The GM Guy' for about six months.
'We're going to take this and make it a different way to consolidate,' he says. 'It's too early to know if we'll be successful, but we do know business was up 30 to 35 percent in 1999 over 1998.'