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For decades, they've been the backbone of auto sales in the U.S. The smaller independent dealer is what most of America grew up with. Now those smaller dealers are about to dwindle in number and influence.
They are in the crosshairs of the auto task and passionate about their feelings over GM and Chrysler plans to drop dealers. What's interesting is that not all dealers are against the idea of trimming the dealer ranks, while others are fearing the end of business' that have been in their family for years.
For auto dealers, this may go down as the worst week ever. GM will announce plans to cut 2600 dealerships while Chrysler drops roughly 850. That's roughly 42% of the GM dealerships and 27% of the Chrysler stores going away.
It's kind of like watching a car crash. You know it's sad. You know it's awful. But you can't stop looking at it. I'm not trying to be trivial about the plunge in GM shares this week.
For months we've all heard the warnings. If GM and Chrysler go bankrupt it will trigger a host of other bankruptcies from suppliers to dealers.
The fact Toyota posted it's first annual loss in 75 years is not surprising- almost every auto maker lost money this year. The fact this company lost $6.9 Billion in the quarter ending this March is staggering, but not so out of line that people are shocked. What is surprising is Toyota CEO Katsuaki Watanabe telling reporters in Tokyo his company was "lacking in the scope and speed of dealing with various issues."
When you burn through $113 Million every day, it seems ludicrous to say that the quarter turned out a little better than expected. Equally disturbing is the fact few will seem phased by the fact spent $113 Million more than it took in every single day of the first quarter.
This is for all of you who have complained, groused, wondered, and offered pointed opinions about the Big 3 not being committed to smaller, greener cars. For those of you who have scoffed at the idea of Detroit making money on compact cars built in the U.S., Ford believes it will prove you wrong.
As the bankruptcy hearings about creating a new Chrysler pick up steam in New York, it's becoming crystal clear how quickly the Federal Government wants to re-structure the ailing auto maker.
Last Friday, as most people focused on Chrysler going bankrupt, making its first appearance in bankruptcy court and the mounting questions about whether its future was bright or bleak, Honda moved a little higher. It was typical Honda done with little fanfare. The "Steady-Eddie" of the car business moved past Chrysler to become number 4 in U.S. auto sales this year.
When the bottom fell out of the auto industry late last year, we all knew that Chrysler was losing gobs of money. Heck, last December on Capitol Hill Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli said that his company was burning through a billion dollars of capital a month. That said, when you see Chrysler lost $16.8 Billion last year, you have to stop and ponder the enormity of that loss.
It's a gutsy move. If it works out, he will be called a genius. If it doesn't, critics will say he tried to bite off more than he could chew. Either way, Sergio Marchionne is clearly on center stage for an auto industry in turmoil. Whether or not his performance leads to rave reviews is very much up in the air, but so far he's hitting all the right notes.
Chrysler's sales in the U.S. for April were down 48 percent. The now bankrupt automaker sold 76,682 total vehicles versus 147,751 a year ago. Despite the big declines, all the numbers were well above forecasts.
You cover enough bankruptcies, you get used to the strange and painful routine. Closing the plants, targeting the jobs to be cut, and outlining how a company in Chapter 11 will be filed in court papers and pretty clear from the beginning. In other words, the cutting and paring of costs is the easy part. It's the re-building and changing of the company that is the tough part.
Over the last two weeks one of the more intriguing (and downright scary to some people) suggestions is the idea of the auto task force killing the Chrysler brand. I'm not talking about the Chrysler corporation, but simply the Chrysler brand. Three months ago that idea would have been roundly dismissed as "crazy talk", not anymore.
Automakers around the world are facing the challenge of remaining relevant. With General Motors and Chrysler teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, which carmaker will survive the fallout? Definitely look to the Japanese, in particular, Nissan.
GM CEO Fritz Henderson is a straight shooter. It's one of the things about him that I like. That said, how many of us believe the man when he says GMs latest restructuring plan is the final "fix" for the auto maker? Count me among those who are skeptical.
Now that GM is putting Pontiac out to pasture, planning to cut another 6 production plants in the U.S., and squeeze out hundreds of dealers, I am hard pressed to see how GM remains #1 in U.S. sales.
After eight decades the Pontiac brand is about to die or be sold by GM. The auto maker will announce the end of the iconic American brand early next week. Pontiac is the latest casualty of the radical down-sizing of General Motors.