Subaru dealers asked Subaru of America Inc. for written assurance that it will not sell cars to anyone other than franchised dealers - specifically, that Subaru will not sell cars to dot-com middlemen.
'The big concern of the dealers is that (factories are) looking to cut us out of the equation,' said Don Hicks, owner of Shortline Subaru in Aurora, Colo., after the make meeting at the NADA convention.
Subaru President George Muller said after the meeting that Subaru has no plans to cut out dealers, and said he sympathized with them.
'The dealers want us to say we would never, ever, ever, ever, sell cars to anyone else,' Muller said. 'While I want to give the dealers an assurance that will satisfy them, I also don't want to tie our hands, legally. The point that we can all agree with, I think, is that we don't want people to go outside the Subaru family, so to speak, to get Subarus.'
Hicks said Subaru dealers did not expect Muller to produce a written agreement on the spot, but they would like him to see to it soon.
'We don't want some guy with a laptop selling cars without having to have a floorplan, without a service department, without having to buy all the special tools we have to buy to keep the customers satisfied,' he said.
On other issues:
Subaru dealers last year suffered parts shortages. Rick DeSilva, owner of Liberty Subaru in Oradell, N.J., said Subaru switched to an Internet ordering system, and the switch snarled deliveries. 'They'll work the bugs out,' DeSilva said.
Dealers also were curious about the December announcement that General Motors will buy a 20 percent share of Subaru parent Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., for $1.4 billion. Muller said he has no other details.
Subaru's U.S. volume target for 2000 is 165,000 units, up from 156,806 in 1999.