You took away, now give something back. That was the message Dodge dealers sent to DaimlerChrysler at a packed make meeting Sunday.
After spending the first 15 minutes of the 90-minute meeting venting about the takeaways and discussing how DaimlerChrysler got into its financial fix, dealers asked DaimlerChrysler executives, invited in for the rest of the meeting, to set realistic and attainable sales targets for dealers.
"That's absolutely critical," said Dick Withnell, owner of Withnell Dodge in Salem, Ore., and president of Dodge's national dealer council. If dealers perceive their targets as unattainable, "they'll hunker down and not play the game."
If they don't play the game, they won't order vehicles, which will put the company in an even worse position, he said.
Some dealers at the meeting protested that their sales targets were too high. "The targets were set based on a dealer's sales in the last six months," said Withnell. "So if you were a good dealer and had good legs — that is, you had a good July, August, September and October and didn't experience softness in your sales until November and December — you are penalized somewhat by higher targets."
Dealers also want DaimlerChrysler to analyze the costs they charge to dealers and eliminate or lower some of them as a way to give something back for the takeaways.
"They've taken away, now we have to look at the givebacks," said Withnell. "We want them to analyze everything from A to Z. They are charging us a laundry list of fees, and we want to see what the factory can do to help us cut our costs."
Withnell described the make meeting as two meetings in one: The first half was "a glass half empty" situation as dealers aired complaints about the takeaways; the second half was "a glass half full" situation as dealers discussed possible givebacks with company executives.
'We didn't sell out'
"As a council, we had to communicate to the dealer body that we represent them. We didn't sell out. We totally objected to the takeaways. We helped get them modified," said Withnell.
Dealers poured out of the meeting looking glum. Their Chrysler-Jeep counterparts, were waiting outside before their make meeting, and one yelled at the Dodge dealers: "Hey, you guys aren't smiling."
Many Dodge dealers refused to comment after the meeting.
"It is what it is," one dealer, who spoke on the condition he not be identified, said of the recent changes. "It is out of our control. We just have to accept it and go on."
Several dealers noted that they had faced adversity before with the former Chrysler Corp.'s previous brushes with bankruptcy.