Of the 17,760 U.S. dealerships, the Detroit-3 automakers counted 10,011 as of January 1.Only 2 domestic-brand dealers for every 3 foreign-brand stores are a far cry from the halcyon days before the ‘shakeout’ years preceding the Chrysler and GM bankruptcies.
Then there existed far more domestic-brand dealers and related service centers, namely nearly 5,000 more as the U.S. total reached the peak of 22,000.
What happened? Did the franchise system so freak-out domestic-brand executives that they let dealers go into past-tense operations or handed out foreclosure notices whether consumers liked the at-risk dealers or not?
Was there really a need to ditch so many brands?-Saturn, Mercury, Pontiac owners be damned!
The industry’s moguls should have learned a lesson or two from the turmoil which greeted the Oldsmobile, Plymouth, Saturn, Mercury and Pontiac executions.
Owner loyalty certainly is an important factor in marketing products. Who can’t recall the songs written about Oldsmobile? The Saturn family picnics and reunions? Formation of Pontiac Grand Prix clubs? Test-drive gatherings at the Chrysler Proving Ground in Chelsea? Holiday roundups at the GM proving ground in Milford? Christmas parties at the old Ford Rotunda in Dearborn?
Shedding 5,000 dealers in the early years of this century has been a blow to the pyramiding growth and staying power of domestic marques in particular. “Loyalty” was a booster for every one of the 5,000 ex-dealers.
Once again, it’s lost forever. ‘A sob for Saab’ who’s next?