It is amazing how often the media gets things wrong. It was a newspaper that labeled the War for Southern Independence a “Civil” war, which was clearly wrong. Now they are proclaiming that General Motors is closing thousands of dealerships and will cause hundreds of thousands of people to lose their jobs.
All of these dealerships are owned by individuals or small corporations. General Motors does not own any of them. These independent dealerships have a contract to sell and service General Motors products, and it is these contracts that the near bankrupt company is ending. But that does not necessarily mean death of the dealers. They have a number of options. They can convert to top-end used car sales or apply for a dealer contract with another auto company. They can actually expand their service operations to cover other brands. After all, many people are now fixing up their old cars rather than purchase new ones.
And it is likely that some of them will not be profitable without their GM affiliation. Those may have to close with the loss of jobs. But I suspect that most of them will survive if in a smaller format.
The other news from General Motors is more disturbing. They are discontinuing the Pontiac brand. Now that is a tragedy. What will Smokey do without his Pontiac Firebird? Pontiac has been the “excitement” brand at GM for the past 85 years. They provided the sports cars, the muscle cars and the big road cars that gave the American-made cars their special identity. But pollution and mileage rules gradually forced them off the road. So rather than make the effort to keep Pontiac up to date while preserving its unique identity, GM has decided to drop the line completely.
And finally, General Motors is closing most of its U.S. assembly plants and plans to make their cars in Korea, China, Mexico and other foreign locations. That will cost more American jobs than will the reduction in dealerships.
I have an idea. Why don’t the thousand or more dealers who are losing their GM contracts join together to purchase the Pontiac name from GM, then buy or lease one of their Southern assembly plants and make their own Pontiacs? It appears that GM will be before the bankruptcy judge in the near future, and these assets might be available at a very reasonable price. By making it a Southern-based company, they can avoid those punishing union contracts while boosting employment in our area. I can just hear the buzz when that new, high-tech firebird hits our southern roads!
There are other ways to preserve American automobiles without massive government takeovers. A private, independent Pontiac company competing with a government dominated GM would drive that point home. I am probably dreaming, but it would be something to see.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. His website can be accessed at http://frankgillispie.tripod.com/