Dealer, Customers Ponder Future Of GM
All Things Considered, March 31, 2009 · John Medved is not happy with
the White House move to oust General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner. Medved,
the owner of Medved Autoplex in Colorado, says Wagoner was doing a good
job reforming the huge company.
Medved says the Obama administration was just trying to send a message.
"I guess it wouldn't be any different than shooting the No. 1 hostage
and saying, 'We're for real,' " Medved says. "I think that it's a
statement to the union and the bondholders that either you make a deal
or we will pull it [GM] into bankruptcy."
Medved has a direct stake in what happens to GM — eight of his 18
dealerships sell GM products. He says his Chevrolet dealership in Wheat
Ridge, Colo., is the busiest in the state, but that's not saying much
"This store in 2002 was selling 230 Chevrolets a month — now we're
selling about 50 a month," he says. Medved has cut more than half of the
600 employees at all his dealerships in the past couple of years. Now he
is down to 275 employees.
Medved also suspended the company's 401(k) matching program and
restructured the health insurance plan to save money.
John and Joan Rutherford of Golden, Colo., bought one of the two cars
Medved Chevrolet sold in Wheat Ridge on Monday — a metallic black 2009
Malibu. They had heard about President Obama's references to possible
bankruptcy for GM earlier in the day. Still, they settled on the Malibu
after looking at the Ford Fusion and the Honda Accord.
"At the end of the day, I don't think that they're going to allow a
company like Chevrolet to fail," says John Rutherford. Obama's pledge
that the federal government would back up warranties if GM goes bankrupt
reinforced that confidence.
"I trust Obama personally," Joan Rutherford said. "I think he's
obviously an intelligent businessman, and I feel comfortable that he's
not going to let the wrong things happen."
Another potential customer, who chose not to buy a car Monday, had a
very different opinion of the White House forcing out Wagoner.
"It bothers me," says Alan Squire of Golden, Colo. "I think it's the
first move to socialism."
"There are a lot of small businesses — they're not getting any
bailouts," says Squire, who owns a small business that sells automotive
paint. "Why should the big guys be treated any different?" Squire says
that even companies as big as GM should be allowed to fail if they can't
Medved Chevrolet sales manager Tim Myers says GM really needs someone
like Lee Iacocca, who is credited with turning around Chrysler in the 1980s.
"He said, 'Folks, we're going to be around, we're going to be viable, we
make a good product — come buy from us,' " and customers did, Myers says.
Wagoner — while a smart manager — does not have those same qualities,
Myers says. "He is not that charismatic individual who can get out in
front of the audience and say, 'Guys, let's go!' "
Myers says GM is making great cars right now, but still suffers from the
poor reputation the company earned in the 1970s and '80s. If GM can't
find a charismatic leader to change customers' minds, Myers wonders if
perhaps Obama could accomplish that.