General Motors-dealer relations — which were bruised two years ago by the automaker's unsuccessful plan to buy up to 800 dealerships — are steadily improving, says GM Vice President John Middlebrook.
“We ranked pretty well on a recent NADA survey,” says Mr. Middlebrook. “We've got a way to go to rebuild trust, but we're getting there. It's deeds, not words.”
This year, Ford seems to be the bad guy in dealers' eyes. That's because many Ford dealers object to aspects of the Ford Blue Oval dealer certification program. Among other things, it gives certified dealers a better price on vehicles they buy from the factory.
“We told our dealers we are not going the Blue Oval route,” says Mr. Middlebrook. “There are other ways to enhance customer satisfaction without such a financial aspect (as the two-tier pricing system).”
What's good and what could be better at GM these days?
Mr. Middlebrook says, “On the ‘right’ side we've had six new product launches. We've made progress with quality to the point that J.D. Power & Associates says we're the best domestic.”
And the Harbour Report, an annual review of automakers' factory productivity lauds GM for great strides in that area.
But the biggest challenge is market share, says Mr. Middlebrook. GM's continues to be around 28%. A few years ago, the automaker said its stretch goal was 32%. GM has since stopped publicly setting such goals.
“We're making strides, but we're not yet making the market share goals we want to make,” says Mr. Middlebrook.
But in key ways, GM is better off than its domestic rivals. It doesn't have a major crisis like Ford does with the Explorer-firestone fiasco. Nor is GM in the financial bog that's mired DaimlerChrysler of late.