LOS ANGELES — Things are looking up for 50 Hyundai dealerships termed "chronic underachievers" by Steve Wilhite before he quit as Hyundai Motor America's COO in September.
In March, Wilhite gave the stores six months to improve poor performance in sales and customer satisfaction or face losing their franchises. The dealerships were not identified.
The time is up, and the company is reviewing those stores, says Hyundai sales chief Dave Zuchowski. He says final performance evaluations will be issued in November or December.
"The last thing we want to do is take a franchise away," Zuchowski says. "The whole intent was to improve those dealers."
Before a dealership can be terminated, the case must go to the motor vehicle board in the dealership's state. Either side can appeal.
Zuchowski says combined sales of the 50 stores are up 23 percent since they were put on probation. Six or seven of the dealerships have new owners, he says.
Most of the stores will be allowed to keep the franchise, Zuchowski predicts. He also expects more ownership changes. The probation time may be extended for dealerships making good progress.
"This was not necessarily a one-time shot," he says.
In addition to the 50, Hyundai identified problems at several other dealerships that included substandard facilities, poor management and capital shortages. Those stores were not given a six-month deadline, but Zuchowski says progress is being made at those stores, too.