For 14 years, Larry Koss has been the Buick- Pontiac-GMC dealer in Richmond, MI, population 5,900, at the northeast corner of the metro Detroit market. Koss has been in the auto retailing for about 40 years. He was interviewed in his office adjoining a recently renovated 8-car showroom of his family store on Main St.
Ward's: So how's business?
Koss: Horrible. Last year, we sold 420 new cars, of which half were leased on very favorable GMAC terms. Sales have really tanked in June and July, and I'm waiting for GM to tell us when we can sell cars.
Ward's: You mean richer spiffs?
Koss: That, plus more consistent lease offers. GMAC has gone to 4-month and even 6-month lease pullbacks, but only on selected models, like the Pontiac Vibe and G6. The Rendezvous was a terrific seller for us as a Buick model with the best lease package. The Rendezvous is gone, but the new Enclave is a lot pricier and they haven't matched it with Rendezvous on lease attractiveness. Their Enclave lease payment is $700 a month, would you believe!
Ward's: How are GM trucks doing?
Koss: The Yukon really backed up, until they added $1,000 to the lease incentive. The Yukon and Sierra have been hurt by $3-plus-a-gallon gas prices. They're available for E85 ethanol, but there are few stations selling it nearby.
Ward's: What do you think about the new GM products?
Koss: GM seems to have a strategy of sharing all Pontiac models with Saturn.
One day there'll be two models only for each GM brand. But GM cars are better than ever, and certainly better than Japanese competition. GM doesn't get that across in their ads. The extended warranty is also something GM should promote more in their marketing.
Ward's: How has the Buick-Pontiac-GMC combination push affected you?
Koss: In smaller towns, like Richmond, where there are no Asian-brand dealers, folks prefer to buy cars from dealers that have been here a long time. Combining all domestic brands means there are no long-standing GM stores left, so we've benefited by the fact that three GM brands are in one location. There's no Chevy dealer, but there's a newly-build Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep store down Main Street who's done well. At the same time, Shepherd Lincoln-Mercury on Main has been in the same 2-car showroom for 57 years. Putting the GM brands all together is going slowly, though, because folks are loyal to the Buick-only or Pontiac-GMC-only stores.
Ward's: Are there too many dealers?
Koss: There are. But with the Big 3 factories in trouble, where would they be without the numbers they get from us small-town guys? The Koss family will be in Richmond for many years to come, because our 28 employees are dependent on us, and so are this town's police cars, fire trucks, ambulances, snow plows and school buses. That is worth its weight in gold to GM, Ford and Chrysler.