Tag Archives: chrysler

GM & Chrysler Dealers

16 May

There’s no reason why any city or town in this country needs 9 Chevy dealers or 4 Chrysler dealers. Reformation of the way dealers do business, and the number of them, is critical to GM’s and Chrysler’s survival. Mediocre cars + crappy marketing + lame dealership experience = failure.

As the AP explains,

A decision by troubled automaker General Motors to drop 20 percent of its dealers is due in part to an oversized network that created stiff internal competition and gave shoppers too much leverage to talk down sticker prices, hurting chances for future sales.

Seems like a change that should have been made long ago. But like Buffalo, change comes slowly to American carmakers.

GM outlined a plan to cut about 40 percent of its 6,000-dealer network by the end of 2010 in hopes of getting the company back on its feet. Besides the 1,110 dealership cuts, the company will shed about 500 dealerships that market the Saturn, Hummer and Saab brands, which GM plans to phase out or sell.

And when the surviving dealers’ contracts are up in late 2010, GM will cut still more by not offering renewals to about 10 percent of the dealers who are left. Dealers could stay open selling used cars or other brands, but GM and Chrysler cuts will still leave cities across the U.S. with empty buildings, vacant lots and perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost tax revenues.

FedEx letters bearing the bad news began arriving Friday morning at GM franchises around the country. The letter states that dealers had been judged on sales, customer service scores, location, condition of facilities and other criteria.

While the targeted dealers represent about 20 percent of GM’s total, they make only 7 percent of its sales, the company said.

GM says it would be much easier to shed dealerships if it declared bankruptcy, but it wants to avoid that stigma and restructure without protection. It sounds like any discussion of how onerous regulations, rules, and contracts keep WNY down and can’t really be meaningfully changed, short of declaring bankruptcy, because no one has the political will to do it.

All of this is as overdue as it is necessary.

GM and Chrysler – Last Exit Before Bankruptcy

30 Mar

McClatchy is reporting as follows:

President Barack Obama on Monday will reject requests for almost $22 billion in new taxpayer bailout money for General Motors Corp. and Chrysler, saying the car makers have failed to take steps to ensure their viability.

The government sought the departure of GM chief Rick Wagoner and said the company needed to be widely restructured if it had any hope of survival. It said it would provide the company with 60 days operating capital to give it time to undertake reforms.

The government will grant Chrysler 30 days operating funds, but said it must merge with another carmaker in order to remain viable. Talks with Italian carmaker Fiat are underway.

GM and Chrysler have already received $17+ billion in federal funding to stay afloat, and had a further need for federal bailout money in order to avoid bankruptcy. They had both submitted strategic plans for recovery which have been deemed inadequate.

The problems with GM and Chrysler are so long-standing and fundamentally structural, there’s probably little way they can be fixed without something drastic like bankruptcy. The problem is that the public’s already weak confidence with these automakers will only become weaker when questions about warranty service enter into it. The feds, therefore, have instituted a warranty guarantee program to avoid that problem.

Many are making much of the idea that forcing Wagoner out represents little more than communism. The difference, of course, is that under communism the government expropriates private industry without recourse. Here, the companies came to the federal government begging, hat in hand, for money – and they accepted it under certain conditions.

Chrysler already got bailed out once in the early 80s, and it repaid the government every penny. This is nothing new, and accusations that the government is just trying to run business is intellectually dishonest and silly. The government didn’t ask to bail out GM or Chrysler – the automakers made the plea.

When Chrysler needed that bailout it was in the wake of the 70s era energy crises which saw MPG trump HP in people’s purchasing choices. Honda, Toyota, and Datsun sold fun, fuel-efficient cars while Detroit was still making crappy gas guzzlers. Attempts to compete in the small car arena came too slowly, and more often than not, they were failures. GM’s horrific late-70s diesels still curse passenger car diesel acceptance in the US to this day.

Throughout the earlier part of this decade, GM, Ford, and Chrysler relied on the sales of gas-guzzling pickups and SUVs. People love them, and the companies’ margins were higher when they sold these vehicles. All of a sudden, when gas hit about $4.00/gallon, SUVs and pickups getting 15 MPG were unsellable, and domestic automakers were faced with a small handful of decent, attractive, fuel-efficient cars. It’s no surprise that the company that would put the Aztek to market would soon fail.

GM and Chrysler have made poor decisions, and built mediocre vehicles for many years. They’re also the backbone of American manufacturing. When they came begging for public money, they sacrificed a great deal.

GM & Chrysler Look for $35 bn Combined

17 Feb

I’m not a bank aficionado, so don’t ask me about the bailouts or the Swedish model for nationalization or anything else. I haven’t read the stimulus bill signed into law today, so don’t ask me about that, either.

I do know, however, that GM and Chrysler are in trouble after 3 or 4 decades of making cars and trucks that are/were, for the most part, a bunch of crap. The Dodge Charger I rented in Vegas was nice enough, but it was rough enough around the edges that I’d never consider buying one. The Dodge Caravan I rented in Florida last year was adequate, but seemed to be light-years behind the class-leading Honda Odyssey. GM has gotten better, but not across the board, not for every car.

So, GM needs $30 billion, will eliminate 20,000 jobs by 2012, and will put Saturn to death by 2011 and consider getting rid of Hummer, too.

Chrysler needs $5 billion, and will eliminate a few thousand jobs.

If I was GM, I’d throw out the Saturn name and just import or build Opels, and let the Germans run it. I’d sell Hummer, and I’d re-configure the entire operation to enable it to be quicker to market with new cars, and get plants to be as modern and efficient as those anywhere else in the world. If I was Chrysler, I’d hire some new designers right away and start an entire new line of vehicles across the board. Jeep should have 3 – 4 models, and Chrysler should focus on luxury while Dodge focuses on muscle cars like the Challenger, and mid-range passenger cars. The Fiat deal gives Chrysler access to small, fuel efficient cars, and luxurious stuff like Alfas.

Every SUV should be available with a common-rail diesel engine for economy. Every car should have a diesel or hybrid engine option. GM and Chrysler both need to innovate not just in terms of engine technology, but also with respect to interior design and perceived quality. It doesn’t take much – hell, just copy a new Hyundai and it’d be an improvement over all of what Chrysler shits out and half of what GM bothers to try and sell.

When the car market is in a slide, the most innovative and economical cars are going to do well. GM and Chrysler don’t have too many of those, but Honda is going to sell a $19,000 4-door Insight that gets close to 60 MPG. Honda’s sales may be down, but it doesn’t have its hand out. During the SUV boom, it chose to innovate with the Pilot and Ridgeline while still investing in the Insight and Civic hybrids. Toyota built 4Runners and Highlanders, but it also built Echos, Yarises, and Priuses.

GM? It built Silverados, Cobalts, and a decade’s worth of awful Trailblazers. Chrysler built fugly Sebrings and $40,000 Grand Cherokees with rental-car interiors. No wonder they’re in trouble.

Their paths to salvation don’t lie in staff reduction or bailouts or plant closings. They must innovate and build cars that can compete with the Germans, the Japanese, and most pathetically, the Koreans – the country that gave us a joke called a “Hyundai” in 1985, and now builds the Genesis, which puts most of GM’s cars to shame.

Chrysler Idling All Manufacturing

18 Dec

Chrysler, which Daimler recently sold off to a private investment firm, is shuttering all its manufacturing plants starting Friday, and isn’t really clear on when, if ever, they might re-open. The press release says they will not re-open any sooner than January 19th.

This is astonishing, because although Dodge/Chrysler’s stable has been somewhat lackluster lately (especially the ultra-cheap Matchbox car interiors), this is the company that produces Jeeps, Dodge Charger/Challengers, and Chrysler 300s. The problem is, that’s all they’ve got. Nothing else is lighting the world on fire – especially the minivans.

Think about this. Volkswagen’s Routan minivan is a re-skinned Chrysler Town & Country. Even it pales in comparison to the state-of-the-art Honda Odyssey, but the Routan is miles ahead in terms of exterior but especially interior design & perceived quality than the Chrysler minivan that shares its DNA.

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All I can say, it seems like it’s 1979 all over again – especially for the auto industry.

Shame on the Gulfstream Class

19 Nov

This sticks in my craw, and should stick in yours, too:

The CEOs of the big three automakers flew to the nation’s capital yesterday in private luxurious jets to make their case to Washington that the auto industry is running out of cash and needs $25 billion in taxpayer money to avoid bankruptcy.

The CEOs of GM, Ford and Chrysler may have told Congress that they will likely go out of business without a bailout yet that has not stopped them from traveling in style, not even First Class is good enough.

All three CEOs – Rick Wagoner of GM, Alan Mulally of Ford, and Robert Nardelli of Chrysler – exercised their perks Tuesday by flying in corporate jets to DC. Wagoner flew in GM’s $36 million luxury aircraft to tell members of Congress that the company is burning through cash, asking for $10-12 billion for GM alone.

“We want to continue the vital role we’ve played for Americans for the past 100 years, but we can’t do it alone,” Wagoner told the Senate Banking Committee.

While Wagoner testified, his G4 private jet was parked at Dulles airport. It is just one of a fleet of luxury jets owned by GM that continues to ferry executives around the world despite the company’s dire financial straits.

“This is a slap in the face of taxpayers,” said Tom Schatz, President of Citizens Against Government Waste. “To come to Washington on a corporate jet, and asking for a hand out is outrageous.”

Wagoner’s private jet trip to Washington cost his ailing company an estimated $20,000 roundtrip. In comparison, seats on Northwest Airlines flight 2364 from Detroit to Washington were going online for $288 coach and $837 first class.

When you come begging me for my tax money, fly commercial, asshole. I don’t care if you’re so important that you need to fly first class, but fly commercial. Sell the G4. $20,000 to fly from Detroit to DC is shameful for a company that’s supposedly hemorrhaging cash. Ford still operates a fleet of eight corporate jets for its kings of fail.

Detroit’s Chickens Coming Home To Roost

13 Oct

The domestic auto industry is getting its own bailout to the tune of $25 billion. Remember George W. Bush’s bleating 8 years ago about tax dollars being the people’s money? The people’s money is going to subsidize and prop up a lot of businesses that have made trillions taking the taxpayer, flipping him/her over, and doing very bad things to him/her.

I’m not banker or Wall Street whiz, so what little I know about what’s going on over there hardly makes me qualified to go into any detail about it.

But the auto industry – the domestic auto industry, to be specific – has been operating under a 60s mindset over the last decade. Build it big with lots of mostly-needless “features”, without regard to gas mileage. While Honda and Toyota were busy developing hybrid powertrains – even when gas was $1.50/gallon – GM, Ford, and Chrysler did nothing of the sort. They made their money off Silverados, Tahoes, Explorers, F-150s, Rams, and Grand Cherokees. Those vehicles are lucky, each of them, to pull in 15 MPG in combined city/highway mileage.

The use of petroleum products is a national economic and security issue, at this point, and the federal government since the 70s gas crises has mandated that the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) of passenger cars sold in the United States meet some median MPG figure. Until very recently, the CAFE rules exempted most pickups and SUVs from the calculus, so the big three were happy and free to build idiotic gas guzzling megatrucks with impunity, and relegated passenger car design and sales to almost exclusively rental fleet sales. Anyone out there own a mid-90s era Chevy Malibu or Ford Contour? How about a Dodge Stratus? While Honda’s Accord and Civic, and Toyota’s Prius and Camry became the state of the art of passenger cars, Detroit concentrated on trucks and SUVs, foisting on us the craptastic Chevy Cobalt, the made-with-Matchbox-car-plastic Dodge Caliber and the now decade-old Ford Focus in order to meet CAFE standards.

The trucks and SUVs were cheap to build, used identical chassis and powertrains, and made the big three a whole lot of money. Domestically, anyway.

Until 2007, CAFE required cars to get 27.5 MPG, and light trucks 20.7 MPG. In the meantime, average fuel economy in other parts of the world is pretty routinely 30% higher due to the use of clean diesel and other smaller-engine technologies. In 2007, the US government passed a law requiring entire fleets – including light trucks – to meet 35 MPG on average by 2020.

When you consider that the domestic market reached its peak fuel economy in 1987 at 26.2 MPG, and by 2006 had fallen to 24.6 MPG, you have to ask yourself why the hell Detroit deserves a bailout of any kind.

It strains credulity and boggles the mind that the auto industry, which so opposed tightened CAFE standards for many years is now coming to the US taxpayer, hat in hand. The biggest slap in the face is the fact none of the big three have any excuse whatsoever to be in the position they’re in. Like a broken record, I will direct you to the websites for Ford UK, Opel/Vauxhall (GM Europe), and Daimler-Benz, (which until recently owned Chrysler). All three domestic automakers are quite capable of making modern, fuel-efficient, low-CO2 producing motor vehicles. The problem is they kept them away from the US market and sold them in countries where fuel is more expensive and regulations are more stringent on mileage and emissions.

The last time a US automaker came to Uncle Sam begging for a handout, it was Chrysler in the early 80s, facing bankruptcy and astonishingly turning itself around with the craptastic K-Car. Then, as now, it was a domestic automaker that kept on making shitty, gas-guzzling vehicles during a gas crisis, and found itself with cars that no one wanted. One might have thought that the lesson had been learned. Now, all three are in big trouble, as evidenced by the stock prices for Ford and GM, which are at historic lows not seen since the 1950s.

You can now buy one share of Ford stock for about 60% of the price of a gallon of gasoline:

There is talk of Ford merging with Chrysler. All I know is that the domestic automakers are caught in a disaster of their own making, and it’s beyond offensive for taxpayers to bail them out of their own dumb and short-sighted decisions in a country where, e.g., working people go bankrupt trying to pay medical bills.

Welcome To West Herr New York

11 Jan

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In the post about my horrific customer service experience at Joe Cecconi’s Chrysler Complex, a reader left a comment

While we haven’t met or done business, I’d be happy to supply you (no charge) with a spare key and program it for your vehicle. Yes they have a chip inside and are expensive but you shouldn’t have to be going through this. Contact our Chrysler Service Director, Steve Heary at 667-1700.

There is no catch in this , I’d just like to work hard to earn you as a customer. As a 4 time recipient of the Better Business Bureau Torch award for ethics, we strive very hard to do whatever it takes in the community to help owners no matter where they purchased.

Please mention to Steve that I referred you to him.

Kindest Regards,

Brad Coon
Director of Parts and Service
West Herr Automotive Group

Later that evening, I received a follow up email from Mr. Coon who again asked that I contact his service director. He was apologetic for the treatment I had received at another dealership and hoped that I wouldn’t let one experience with this dealer sour me on the Chrysler brand.

I followed up with a phone call to Steve Heary yesterday and I was immediately overwhelmed by his politeness and willingness to help. He asked me for my Vehicle Identification Number and informed me that I would have a key waiting if I came by West Herr Dodge in Orchard Park the next day. Upon arrival, Mr. Heary greeted me with a handshake and a smile and provided me with a spare key for the Jeep. He had ordered a simple spare key without the lock/unlock/panic fob and I was absolutely satisfied with that as a second key. However, Steve was not.

He wondered if I needed a third key in order for the remote starter to work and put a call into Custom Radio in Amherst to confirm. The tech at Custom Radio informed him that I only needed two keys for the starter to work, but Steve decided to give me an additional lock/unlock key fob to go along with the grey spare key he had provided earlier. I told him it was unnecessary and that a second key of any sort was more than enough to rectify the situation, but he went the extra mile.

Steve apologized for the entire mess of a situation, never uttered a word about the Cecconi dealership, and focused on the level of service provided at his dealership. Very professional, extremely polite, and a very proud West Herr employee.

I was blown away by the outreach and the friendliness of everyone at West Herr, it’s amazing what a little politeness can accomplish in this day and age.

We live in a time when companies which sell commodity assets rely on their brand as their true asset, not the commodities they sell. The brand is a sum total of your corporate reputation and the way you treat your customers. Clearly, a dealership like Joe Cecconi’s Chrysler Complex is not concerned with their brand identity and feel that cars are the product.

West Herr gets it. They understand that there are several dealers for each brand of vehicle in the region and each offers similar pricing and similar products with similar configurations. The difference and the key to growth is to invest in your brand and the level of customer service which you provide. There is an old saying that a “brand is a promise”.  It is a promise to deliver to the corporate standard and to meet the expectations of old and new customers alike. West Herr did that today, they delivered on their brand and exceeded the expectations of this new customer.

Yes, today West Herr won themselves a customer for life. Since they sell virtually every brand under the sun, whatever car I am looking for will be purchased at one of their dealerships. Because they deliver on the promise of their brand and they get it.

So, welcome to West Herr New York.

Joe Cecconi’s Chrysler Complex

4 Jan

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Back in September, I was fresh off an incredibly unpleasant purchase of a Jeep from Joe Cecconi’s Chrysler Complex on Military Road in Niagara Falls. This is what I had to say then:

The customer service at Joe Cecconi’s Five Star Chrysler Complex is no better than One Star. We traded in the old Jeep for a new one and my beloved Kane Doyle Jeep has recently closed its doors, thus forcing us into the arms of Mr. Cecconi. Not a pleasant experience. If you need to buy a Jeep/Dodge/Chrysler, I’d recommend you go somewhere else. The salesman was disorganized, the sales manager couldn’t find my car for three days, and the entire experience was just a mess.

What follows is a lengthy dissertation on awful customer service and is written for the sole purpose of my personal venting. Read at your own risk of being bored.

At the time, it was just another in a long series of mildly unpleasant sales transactions that have littered my life over the past ten years. Customer service is in a general state of disarray in America, so I stopped really getting worked up about the minor slights and rudeness years ago. However, the purchase process was a mere prelude to the incredible rudeness, arrogance, and outright lying that I have had to deal with over the past couple of days. Absolutely incredible.

When we purchased our vehicle, John Simone (our salesman), only provided us with one key to the vehicle. In the morass of waiting several hours to close our sale with the finance guy, wrangling the baby, dealing with my wife who was on the verge of burning the dealership to the ground, and other general nonsense…the fact that he only gave me one key went unnoticed.

If you have purchased a car in the last five years, you’ll know why having only one key can be difficult. The key has a computer chip in it which works with the ignition and also has the remote lock/unlock functionality built into it. These keys can be a bit pricey, usually $300 retail. So, after a day or so, I called Cecconi’s Chrysler to inform them that I needed the second key to the vehicle. After leaving seven voicemails over four days with my salesman and the sales manager, I was informed that they couldn’t find my key, but I was welcome to make a service appointment to get a new one cut and programmed at their cost. I called the service department and was told the soonest I could get in was 37 days later. Ugh. I made the appointment and moved on with the day to day.

In the interim, I filled out three separate customer service surveys with Chrysler which rated my buying experience at Cecconi’s as the worst of my adult life. I received calls from Chrysler in which I informed them that this was absolutely the last Chrysler I ever intended to lease/purchase and it was totally due to the ineptitude and rudeness of the dealership. Piss me off? Well…a VERY nasty customer survey pox upon your house, Mr. Man! HARUMPH!#! Lame, I know. But I had no other recourse after taking delivery of the vehicle. You take what you can get in life.

Of course, I was sent out of town for a training class during the week of the appointment and I had to reschedule at the last minute and I was told it would be another two months before I could get in. I was incensed. To make this portion of the story shorter, I decided to just move through life with only one key to the vehicle and just forget about it. I filed it under “to be taken care of when I was less irritable”, so 2023 would probably be the date for that.

Bored yet? Stick with me, it’s about to get a little more entertaining.

My wife primarily drives the new Jeep as she transports the baby more often than I do, thus, I decided to get her a remote starter for this Christmas. I thought it would be nice if she could start the Jeep and let it warm up past 3 degrees in the morning when se is taking the baby out. Yeah, I’m thoughtful, it’s how I roll.

My appointment to have the starter installed was this morning at Custom Radio in Amherst. Upon arrival, I was informed that they would be unable to install the starter I purchased in December without two keys. If one key is lost, well, the car probably will not start without some huge cost to me at Jeep and with them. So, I decided today was the day I would take a jaunt up to visit my good buddies at Cecconi’s Chrysler Complex and get my second key.

Upon arrival, I asked to speak with Clyde Van Every (the sales manager who was ducking my calls earlier). He deigned to speak with me and I requested his assistance in following up on his promise to give me my second key. He initially agreed, but was interrupted by Mike Jensen (the dealership’s general manager). I was then informed that he mailed my key to me last month and that I should go back home and “give a good look around for it”.

Of course, this was news to me and I immediately undertook the following line of questioning:

Q: When did you specifically mail it?

A: I don’t know, sometime last month

Q: How did you mail it? UPS, FedEx, DHL, USPS? Certified? Return Receipt? Insured? Delivery confirmation?

A: Nope, just dropped it in an envelope and mailed it to you

Q: You dropped a $300 key into an envelope and mailed it to me? Where and when did you find “my key” at the dealership? How did you know it was my key and not someone else’s? Did you need to run a check on the chip or what?

A: Nope, I just knew it was your key

Q: Is there any evidence whatsoever that you actually mailed this key? Is there a note in my customer file? A post it note stuck to a monitor somewhere? Anything? Because it sure seems awfully odd that you would just find a random key, intuitively know it was mine, not make a note of it nor contact me, and just drop it in the mail. And to remember with such clarity that you mailed it but to have not retained any other details of the process.

A: It was mailed, you’re free to buy another key if you want. Hell, I’ll even sell it to you at cost ($150). Seems pretty clear to me that you just want a free spare key out of us so you can set up your remote starter. I’m not gonna get screwed on this deal. ya know.

Q: I see what you did there, you flipped it! Oh, you’re the clever one Mr. GED-having car salesman! I’m the liar and thief! So, you’re telling me that I have no recourse here and that I should go fuck myself?

A: That is exactly what I am telling you.

Super. I went out to the car to calm down.

I decided to call Chrysler Customer Service to see if they could help influence the process in some way. After calmly and rationally detailing the situation to the agent, I was put on hold as she attempted to contact the dealership and broker a truce. I sat immediately outside the dealership in my vehicle, from which I had a direct view of Clyde and Mike yukking it up in the office. Moments later, the agent came back on the phone to inform me that the dealership receptionist said that both of them had left for the day and they would call back next week. To wit, I informed the phone agent that I was staring right at them and they were sitting in their office. I instructed her to call back and let them know the customer is sitting outside, has visual lock on them, and that she would like to speak with them. They refused again. Classy.

I filed my complaint, requested that Chrysler help me, but I was informed that this was a problem with the sales process and I needed to take it up with the dealership. They couldn’t do much for me and she apologized. That and six dollars will get me a cup of coffee at Spot.

It then occurred to me that if these assclowns had indeed mailed a key in a Chrysler envelope and it was actually lost, there was someone walking about town with my address and a key to my Jeep. Not cool. I went back inside and asked if there was anything someone would do to remedy that situation and I was told to get bent. Great. “If your Jeep is stolen, take it up with your insurance company. There is absolutely nothing that I am going to do for you today.”

So, at a loss for what to do, I had to leave as it seemed the only matter of recourse was to go all “Frank Rizzo” on them.

So, as it stands; I have one key for my Jeep, cannot install the $200 remote starter I bought my wife for Christmas, was abused and called a liar by the guys at Cecconi’s Chrysler Complex, Chrysler refuses to get involved, and if by some chance the unethical (allegedly) sales manager is not lying…someone is walking around Buffalo with the key to my Jeep and my address. Awesome. My only recourse is to purchase a new key from another dealership and have that one and my current key reprogrammed or I could take them to small claims court.

While I decide what to do next, I’ll litter the various Internet car portals with poor ratings for Cecconi and this story.

Any suggestions from the peanut gallery on what to do next?