Pontiac has a lot to look forward to, says John Wiesner, co-chair of the Pontiac-GMC National Dealer Council. He expects 2004 to be a lot better because of new products.
"We've got the '04 GTO that's being shipped right now," he said. ''We've got the new Grand Prix. It's been a slow start, but it's a real fine car, and I think it will catch on and sales will start moving on those."
Pontiac dealers had a slow sales year in 2003 but are confident that the brand is moving in the right direction.
"I think Pontiac is on the verge of launching itself into a real good sales year for 2004," Wiesner says.
"The Vibe sales have been strong. Pontiac has got a lot to look forward to. We're on the road to get business really moving again, and I'm looking forward to a large increase in the coming year."
Wiesner spoke with Staff Reporter K.C. Crain.
What are the hot products?
Grand Am is still the strongest seller for Pontiac. The Envoy has been the strongest seller in the GMC line.
How was 2003 for GMC dealers?
GMC has been strong all year. GMC trucks and SUVs have really been strong, especially the Envoy. And now we've got the new Canyon coming out which is a 4-door Crew Cab that's really going to be a great addition to GMC.
We've got the new light-duty Crew Cab coming out in January, which I think will be a big boost for GMC. We've had a good year in GMC trucks, and it's really helped the franchise with GMC and Pontiac as a combination."
What new products are on the way?
The 2004 GTO, and the 2005 G6, which is going to be a great car.
What have you done to increase your aftermarket business?
We set up what we call the "pro shop" several years ago, and it's been a strong addition to our gross profit. We do around $50,000 a month in gross sales in our pro shop.
What are the industry's prospects for 2004?
It depends on the economy and the world situation. You've got an election coming up. People say, "I want to see who the president is going to be before I make a decision on buying a car."
I think 2004 will be a lot better than 2003. I think the job picture is coming around. The Houston area has been a little slow coming around. I think the Northeast has already picked up a little bit. It seems like we're the last to go down and the last to go up again.
Describe the dealer council's communication with the factory.
Our communications are a lot better with management. They've listened to us. We've asked for new product, and they're coming around finally. We supported the name change on the Grand Prix to the G6, and we supported getting the Canyon pickup, which was not slated for GMC to start with. There are a lot of things the council has supported to make sure that those things were achieved.
What's the dealer council's top priority for 2004?
As far as I can see, more sales and seeing these products get launched and get in on time because we certainly need new products. As far as programs and discounts, I'm sure they will have some rebates and interest programs. I don't know how much they'll push the market, because just about everybody has them.
How involved is the dealer council in the factory programs?
We can make suggestions and they listen. We support them, They throw out things to us to see if we like them or don't like them. Basically they set the parameters for the rebates and the interest programs.
I'd say our involvement has been more than in the past. They run programs by us, and we get to critique them, and they do make changes in them. The demo program is a good example of that. We had lots of input on that, and they made lots of changes on it. It has worked out very well for the dealers.
What has been your biggest disappointment as dealer council chairman?
We'd like to see products come in a lot sooner than they have.
What is something that the factory doesn't understand about your customers?
I think they understand, it's just that they're not out on the firing line. There is a little perspective there that they're not able to see.
How can the factory help dealers?
Product for Pontiac, and giving us quicker change in our truck models, and put more advertising in the field. They're doing a great job of promoting the product now, but sometimes I think you could use a little more.
What are some of the dealer council's concerns for 2004?
Product and advertising. Getting our new product in place and promoting it. I think the competition is going to be strong again next year. We have a lot of foreign competition as well as domestic. It's going to be imperative that we get product on the market and then be able to promote it and advertise it and sell it.
How satisfied are dealers with Pontiac-GMC?
They're fairly satisfied. I get very few complaints.
The most complaints I get are concerning the programs that don't have everything in them that they want, like accessories and options. Sometimes a little in service if they don't feel like they're getting treated fairly.
As a whole, I think dealers are fairly happy with the division.
How important is the Internet to Pontiac-GMC dealers?
I don't think the Internet has been a big player in the market. I think it will in the future, but right now it is very minimal.
Is there anything the factory can do to help?
I don't think so. People are going to have to get used to using the Internet. The Internet is good for information. People look at the Internet and then come in and look at the car. People get information and then bring that information into the dealership. They're much more knowledgeable about what they want to buy and the price they want to pay.
It makes it easier on the salespeople because the customer is pretty well supplied with information. It's been great for informing the customer.