Subaru dealers want to know what to expect from the alliance between General Motors and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., which builds Subarus, but it is simply too early to tell.
That was the message Subaru executives gave dealers at the Subaru of America Inc. make meeting at the NADA convention.
Don Hicks, chairman of the national dealer council, said GM was the No. 1 topic on dealers' minds.
'What's going on with GM? We had a lot of questions about that,' said Hicks, who owns Shortline Automotive Inc. (Subaru-Hyundai-Suzuki) in Aurora, Colo.
GM bought 20 percent of Fuji Heavy last year. Fred Adcock, executive vice president of Subaru of America Inc., said there are no concrete results. The speculation is that GM is interested in using Subaru's all-wheel-drive technology. In turn, Subaru dealers want GM to help Fuji develop a bigger product line for Subaru.
Rick DeSilva, who owns Liberty Subaru in Oradell, N.J., said dealers are all over the board in guessing what the alliance could produce - from unique Subaru products to rebadged GM models.
Adcock said he will keep dealers informed. 'GM is the largest single shareholder in Fuji Heavy. Whatever they do will be with Subaru's best interests at heart.'
Subaru expects to launch the all-new, 2002 Impreza WRX in the U.S. in mid-March. Adcock said customers already have ordered 1,000 units. Due to high demand, the company has raised the U.S. allocation for the first year of sales from 10,000 models to 12,000.
'There is only a finite number of WRXs,' Hicks said. 'We got them to take some production away from the Forester and put it into the WRX.'
At last year's NADA convention, Subaru dealers asked the company to refrain from selling cars directly to third-party, dot-com retailers. The company has complied, Hicks said.
He said links between the Subaru and dealer Web sites also are easier to use. 'It used to take 13 clicks to get from the Subaru Web site to a price quote on a dealer Web site,' Hicks said. 'Now, it takes three.'