Don Hall, CEO of the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association and author of an Aug. 3 letter co-signed by executives from eight other dealer associations, said he hadn't received a response from de Nysschen as of last week. While praising de Nysschen's vision for the brand, Hall said it shouldn't be executed by steamrolling over dealers' concerns.
"I hope to see some reconsideration or additional thought," Hall said, "rather than just "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.'"
Hall, in his letter, said Project Pinnacle punishes dealers for the brand's declining market share and amounts to the "most serious attack on their survival they have seen."
Craig Bickmore, chairman of Automotive Trade Association Executives, said he is optimistic that Cadillac will address the issues he raised in a July 22 letter to de Nysschen.
Bickmore, who represents leaders of state and metro dealer associations, said de Nysschen's office has been in contact since then and that he expects a formal response soon.
A Cadillac spokesman said Project Pinnacle is proceeding as planned, though earlier dealer feedback prompted the brand to delay the start date to Jan. 1, 2017, from Oct. 1.
Although the program is voluntary, the critics say participating dealers would be able to sell some vehicles for thousands of dollars less than holdouts. They allege that the inequities it creates could breach state franchise laws and the brand's agreement with its dealers.
A National Automobile Dealers Association survey of Cadillac retailers about the issue found that 87 percent think the program's purpose is to eliminate small dealers and that just 19 percent think it will build brand value, according to Bickmore's letter.
De Nysschen said that many dealers misunderstand the program and that he had always expected some pushback. Rival luxury brands impose far more rigid standards on their retailers, he said.
"We are not at all at war with our dealer body," de Nysschen said. "Let me make that absolutely, emphatically clear. This entire program has been developed over a period of more than a year, in very close consultation with key dealers. In fact every single aspect has been negotiated and developed jointly with the Cadillac National Dealer Council. It is fully endorsed by the council and it is bulletproof in terms of its legal robustness."
Will Churchill, chairman of the council, said the fourth quarter would be used to show dealers how the program will work but without any money tied to the results.
"We are continuing to massage elements of the program," said Churchill, whose stores in Texas would be classified as tiers 2 and 4.
"But the program is happening and it is full speed ahead. Anytime you change 925 people's pay plans there's going to be heartburn, and that's essentially what Pinnacle is. It's a dealer's pay plan."