To the Editor:
In September 2004, I closed my Dodge dealership in Cincinnati. The real estate was valuable enough to enable me to settle all my obligations and retire comfortably.
I started as a Ford salesman in 1969 and was a franchised dealer for 30 years. For the past 14 years, I handled Jeep-Eagle and then Dodge, so my comments come mainly from my experience with DaimlerChrysler.
I have an idea that may help dealers level the playing field with their factories. Fifteen to 20 years ago when I served on national dealer councils, we were not compromised by the factory. We met without factory people present; we developed issues; we challenged factory programs, and we made a difference.
Today's dealer councils are nothing more than extensions of the factory.
All the programs that give the factory total control over dealers were sold to and by dealer councils.
Why do dealer council reps become factory reps? Favors. Special trips. Better accommodations at dealer meetings; allocation and being buddy-buddy with the big shots. What can dealers do?
1. Form a dealer group outside the dealer council, and do not include the factory reps. They are good guys, but they're on the factory's side.
2. The outside group must be led by high-volume, influential dealers.
3. Funding: If 50 percent of the Chrysler group's 4,000 dealers contribute $100 each, the dealer unit would have $200,000. If they kicked in $500, it would be $1 million.
4. Not happy with Five Star? Other plans don't help you? Your district manager ignores you? Where do you go for help? Now? Nowhere. You need better representation.