Toyota and Lexus spell out diversity
To the Editor:
A July 2 Automotive News editorial correctly observed the challenges facing minority dealer candidates, in particular increased competition for fewer high-quality stores and poor profitability. It is an issue of great importance to the entire industry.
However, in highlighting an exception rather than the norm, it overlooked the fact that more than half of the all-new Toyota and Lexus points awarded during the last five years have gone to minorities. Furthermore, the last seven new Lexus stores were awarded to black entrepreneurs, the most recent being a woman in Huntsville, Ala.
Despite low dealer turnover and relatively unchanged total count among Toyota and Lexus dealer bodies in the United States, minority ownership has increased 37 percent during the last three years - placing us near the top among major carmakers for percentage of minority dealerships. Those efforts have earned praise from the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers.
The editorial also implied that our dealer development program required a candidate to invest 15 percent of the purchase price plus the entire amount of any blue sky portion of a buy/sell. In fact, the candidate's responsibility is 15 percent of the total purchase price, including any blue sky.
Toyota and Lexus place minorities in business to stay in business, not to put check marks on a tote board. The average profitability of our minority-owned dealers is on par with the overall dealer body, and they sell a slightly higher average number of vehicles.
We are proud of our progress and committed to doing more. Toyota is founded on a philosophy of continuous improvement, and dealer diversity is no exception to that principle.
Senior Vice President and General Manager, Toyota
Group Vice President and General Manager, Lexus
Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.
Brand marketing won't do the job
To the Editor:
As a 40-year dealer and wholesaler and a longtime Chrysler shareholder, I have grave misgivings about more expansive and expensive administration costs added to the Chrysler family of vehicles.
In my present pursuit in the wholesale vehicle market, I've seen Chrysler products pay the penalty of faulty design with plummeting wholesale values because of transmission failure, engine problems and general quality issues like air leaks and excessive noise. I refer specifically to the Neon with its head-gasket oil leaks and squealing brakes, the Intrepid and minivan transmission failures and the Avenger's differential howl.
Because of the Neon's lack of corporate coverage to the most vulnerable first-time buyers -who can just barely afford the car payments - the resale value automatically drops $500. That should be a 100,000-mile item, an easy accomplishment for Toyota, Nissan and Honda.
Dispense with brand model managers and use the funds to provide $500 coupons for new vehicles or repair. The coupons will keep Chrysler's promise and the dealers' promise of value to customers. We owe this to our owners because of the devalued state of their vehicles. The balance of the funds could be devoted to design integrity.
Value and desirability are created by styling, reliability and a vehicle that is fun to drive. Those three elements support resale values, which rise and fall according to how well the manufacturer has met those elements.
Brand/corporate marketing through advertising cannot and will not overcome those core elements.
Let's spend our dollars wisely on proven values, not brand management. If those values are met, the brand manages itself. 'Dodge Different'? How about 'Dodge Delivers'? But be prepared to match that message.
KENNETH W. GOEWEY
GM electric steering is fully electric
To the Editor:
A point of clarification with respect to Matthew Murray's July 2 letter on electric power steering: He is correct that the Toyota MR2 had electrically assisted power steering, but it was an electrohydraulic unit. In other words, it was a conventional hydraulic system with a hydraulic pump powered by an electric motor.
That type of transitional technology was (or is still) used in the Opel Astra, the General Motors EV1, the Ford Ranger EV and several other low-volume models.
The new GM electric steering systems will have an electric motor supplying mechanical assist directly to the steering system. That will eliminate the pump, hoses, hydraulic fluid, etc., that were needed in the MR2 system.
JAMES M. SHEA
The writer is retired. He served 40 years with GM's Saginaw Steering Gear Division and Delphi Automotive Systems.
13 million tires: Where are they?
To the Editor:
Ford Motor's recently announced voluntary recall of 13 million Firestone tires not covered by the previous recall grabbed headlines around the world. It has a very positive effect on Ford's image and implied balance of fault between Bridgestone/ Firestone and Ford on the vehicle stability issue.
One thing was missing. Where are the tires? This recall equals tire usage on 2.6 million new sport-utilities or the larger portion of total annual production of this type vehicle for the industry. With the strained relations at Bridgestone/Firestone, it's doubtful that company will contribute much extra effort. Where is this magnitude of capacity for additional sport-utility sized and designed tires?
Is this pure public relations or lack of perspective that replacement parts have to be available before a recall is meaningful and effective?
WILLIAM M. HARRAL
Arch Associates LLC
Northville, Mich. Arch Associates is a consulting firm for QS9000 and ISO9000. The writer stresses that he is expressing his personal opinion.