DETROIT -- General Motors' dealers are standing behind CEO Rick Wagoner.
"Rick Wagoner is leading the best management team at GM since Alfred Sloan," reads the text in a full-page advertisement in the Friday edition of The Wall Street Journal. "We believe that Rick is a man of excellent integrity. His values are that of the best of America."
The black and white ad on the back page of the newspaper's A section is headlined "An Open Letter to America From GM Dealers." It is signed by 20 members of GM's National Dealer Council, 13 members of the automaker's Dealer Advisory Council and executives of the top three dealership groups -- Mike Maroone, of AutoNation Inc.; Roger Penske, of UnitedAuto Group Inc.; and Jeff Rachor, of Sonic Automotive Inc.
Based on the newspaper's published advertising rate card, the ad cost $193,797.12.
John Bergstrom, chairman of Bergstrom Automotive in Neenah, Wis., and Carl Sewell, chairman of Sewell Automotive Cos. in Dallas, placed the ad. They are members of the Dealer Advisory Council.
Bergstrom said the idea of publishing an ad grew out of letters of support for Wagoner that he and Sewell wrote to the GM board of directors before its meeting on Sunday, April 2. Several board members thanked Bergstrom and Sewell for the letters.
At that meeting, the board backed Wagoner with a vote of confidence. It also approved the sale of 51 percent of General Motors Acceptance Corp. to a consortium led by hedge fund Cerberus Capital Management LP. The sale will raise $14 billion for GM.
Since then, several dealers have contacted Bergstrom and Sewell to offer their support.
The show of support comes after a bruising three weeks for GM and Wagoner that led to intense speculation among Wall Street analysts and media pundits about Wagoner's job security.
On March 16, the automaker abruptly postponed filing its annual report with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission due to last-minute accounting errors and revised its 2005 financial data to increase its net loss to $10.57 billion, $2 billion more than originally posted.
On March 28, GM cut several hundred white-collar jobs at its headquarters and its engineering centers and proving grounds in suburban Detroit. And on Monday, April 3, it reported that sales in March fell 14.4 percent from a year earlier.
Also, on March 22, the automaker agreed to an hourly worker buyout program with beleaguered supplier Delphi Corp. GM agreed to pay for buyouts for as many as 13,000 Delphi workers and take an additional 5,000 Delphi workers back as GM employees. It also is offering buyouts to GM hourly workers.
You may e-mail Dale Jewett at [email protected]
You may e-mail Jamie LaReau at [email protected]