Most of the dealers who sell General Motors Corp.'s dying Oldsmobile brand came to the national auto dealers' convention hoping GM would offer some new financial help for them, or even reverse course and decide to keep Oldsmobile going.
But GM executives, in meetings with dealers, reiterated plans to kill the century-old brand by 2004, and said they saw no changes in the buyout offers. GM has mostly ruled out giving Olds dealers another GM franchise, and dealers said GM was not considering adding franchises from its foreign affiliates.
That stance has frustrated several dealers, some of whom are long-time Oldsmobile dealers. Of the 2,301 Olds dealers, “there's an ongoing dialogue with 33% and 58% have signed settlements or are close to it,” says Darwin Clark.
But it's a bit misleading to lump together those who've signed and those who may soon sign, says Allan Starling, owner of Holiday Chevrolet and Oldsmobile in St. Cloud, FL.
Starling says he is still working out some issues before he considers signing a buyout settlement for his Olds franchise.
He says of the brand's demise, “We didn't like it when they announced it, and we don't like it a whole lot now.”
A challenge for Starling is to keep his Olds sales staff motivated, as GM systematically ends model lines.
“I don't want my sales staff saying in exasperation, ‘I guess I'll sell imports now,’” says Starling.
“If someone runs over your dog and left $20 on your porch, it doesn't make up for losing your dog,” Leo Jerome, an Olds dealer from Lansing, MI, where the company was founded, tells Reuters.
He adds, “Most of us are sad about losing our livelihood.”
Other dealers have complained that GM's offers are one-size-fits-all deals, and say the automaker has responded poorly to their concerns.
GM announced in late 2000 that it was killing the money-losing Oldsmobile, and has said the 2004 model year will be the last for the 104-year-old brand.
Oldsmobile's U.S. sales topped 1 million as recently as 1986.
GM's general compensation package is based on a dealer's best annual new retail unit sales in either 1998, 1999 or 2000.
GM would pay dealers as little as $100 a unit if Oldsmobiles make up 0-10% of a dealership's sales, and on a rising scale, as much as $1,000 a unit if Oldsmobiles comprise 75%-100% of a dealership's sales.
A facilities assistance payment of $400 per unit of sales is included in the basic GM package.