Ed Williamson, a member of the Hummer Dealer Advisory Board, says Hummer needs more products to sell.
For example, he says Hummer dealers would like a vehicle to compete with the Jeep Wrangler. Williamson, dealer principal of Williamson Cadillac-Hummer in Miami, also wants Hummer to focus on portraying itself as an environmentally responsible company and dealer body.
Williamson spoke with Staff Reporter Gail Kachadourian.
What new products are on the way?
They have said that there's a smaller unit coming, but I think initially that probably will be destined for the European market. In about a year and a half, they're going to start building some Hummers in South Africa. They are considering a smaller vehicle, an H4, and possibly diesel, but that would initially be available in international markets.
What challenges do Hummer dealers face in the next year?
The main issue that's going to affect Hummer retailers in the U.S. is going to be additional product to fill the showrooms of these required new Hummer sales facilities. We've basically got two units to sell. We've got a mid-sized sport-utility and we've got a full-sized sport-utility. The full-sized comes in a sport-utility truck configuration as well. Longer term, considering the cost of land and building and labor these days, we're going to need some additional product.
What products do dealers want?
Something to compete with the Wrangler, with other full-sized pickups.
What is the top priority of the Hummer Dealer Advisory Board in 2006?
There has been, and I assume there will continue to be, a lot of discussion about retailers that have not built their stand-alone showrooms. It's very important for the Hummer marketing scheme to not have a Hummer sharing showroom space with anything else. It's a small enough dealer body that that can happen.
How do Hummer dealers feel about the expansion of the brand abroad?
I personally like it. If it becomes popular in Europe, it absolutely will be popular in South Africa, land of the Land Rover. But that helps us also. It helps the general image of the product. If it's successful, maybe some Europeans will think a little more highly of American things.
Does Hummer listen to the dealer advisory board?
Yes. For example, there is an event called a Hummer Happening. Every Hummer retailer is expected to have a certain number of those per year to qualify for their SFE (Standards for Excellence).
SFE is a bonus program where a dealer can earn a monthly or quarterly payment from GM, and eligibility for that is based on sales, CSI, training and, in Hummer's case, also meeting the correct number of Hummer Happenings. There are on-road and off-road (events).
The Hummer management was thinking about cutting back the requirement for this particular year. We suggested that was not a good idea. The dealers pay for most of it (events). They construct a demonstration area. People can drive in some of these extreme terrain areas.
The dealers thought that especially the off-roads are so important to have people understand what their trucks are, that they suggested that was not a good idea. They (GM) left it alone. They didn't cut it back.
What are the advisory board's top issues or concerns?
This is a premium brand, just like Cadillac and Saab. Every decision that's made by Hummer regarding this product needs to be made keeping in mind that this is premium.
Because of that, all '06 Hummers have four-year, 50,000-mile warranties, the same warranty as Cadillac. It's got a premium warranty. It needs to have a premium interior. And the new interior of the H3 shows they realize that.
A second will be to continue to reinforce the need for off-road Hummer Happenings. We're on the right track, but it's something we talk about all the time.
(We must) continue pushing to make sure every Hummer dealership has a stand-alone Hummer showroom and service write-up area. As these facilities get built and get used for a while, (we should) have some kind of a program to monitor what they look like.
We need to keep doing things that portray Hummer as not environmentally unfriendly, but a manufacturer and dealer group that do things for the betterment of others. We are a small enough group. We can show we're socially responsible.
Hummer next year may sell 100,000 new H2s and H3s (in the United States) out of less than 170 facilities. That's more than 580 units for a facility, on average. It won't be long, I'd guess three or four years, when we have a couple of new products, where that number will double. We can afford to be socially responsible. The more we are, the better press we're going to get.