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GM to scale back presence at NADA convention

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GM to scale back presence at NADA convention

Neil Roland

Automotive News -- January 7, 2010 - 12:01 am ET

WASHINGTON -- General Motors Co., which battled the National Automobile Dealers Association to a draw on dealer-reinstatement legislation, is dramatically scaling back its participation at the NADA convention in Orlando next month.

GM will not have an exhibit on the show floor for the first time in years, GM spokeswoman Ryndee Carney said in an interview Wednesday.

The automaker traditionally has had one of the largest exhibits, providing a major source of revenue to the shrinking dealer group.

GM executives also won't participate in any so-called make meetings with dealers, nor will they attend social receptions, Carney said.

Instead, GM's presence will be limited to three dealer meals, the spokeswoman said.

She said GM's diminished participation had nothing to do with NADA's role in getting a new law passed that gives rejected dealerships the right to seek reinstatement through neutral arbitration.

Rather, GM already has given dealers an unusual amount of product and marketing information in briefings during the summer and fall, she said.

“It's redundant to spend money to present the same information we shared in the last three months with 90 percent of our dealers,” Carney said.

Substantial savings

In one set of briefings that went above and beyond what GM normally gives its dealers, executives went on a nine-city tour last fall in which they discussed new products, programs and sales tactics, the spokeswoman said.

GM's scaled-back participation will result in “substantial savings” for the automaker, Carney said. She declined to give specific figures, as did NADA spokesman David Hyatt.

It also isn't clear if other companies that supply GM and its dealers will stay home as a result of the automaker's decision.

Hyatt tried to put a happy face on GM's pull-back.

“Actually, we're pleased that GM and all of the other auto manufacturers are participating in the NADA convention,” the spokesman said. “Despite unprecedented challenges and tough economic realities, GM has still decided to participate in the convention in a number of ways.”

Hyatt added: “These events provide GM multiple opportunities to interact with its dealers, meet with NADA leadership and present its vision of GM's future.”

In Washington this fall, NADA joined forces with other dealer groups to propose that GM and Chrysler Group offer neutral arbitration to rejected dealerships and also provide cash compensation.

The automakers broke off settlement talks that were intended as an alternative to legislation to restore the dealerships.

In the end, after lobbying by NADA and other dealer groups, President Barack Obama signed legislation last month that would give rejected GM and Chrysler dealerships access to neutral arbitration under criteria more favorable to dealers than that envisioned by automakers.

There was no compensation for dealers in the new law.

At one of the convention meals that GM plans to attend next month, sales and marketing chief Susan Docherty will speak at NADA's breakfast for women dealers, Carney said.

Q&A sessions

Also, Docherty and two other executives will attend NADA's industry relations luncheon. The other executives are Jim Bunnell, general manager of U.S. sales, service and marketing, and Eric Peterson, director of sales operations.

In a separate event, GM will host a question-and-answer luncheon with Docherty and Bunnell for thousands of Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC dealers, she said. This invitation-only Feb. 14 luncheon will be at the Peabody Hotel, across the street from the convention center in Orlando.

GM's convention plans normally are announced in June. They not only were disclosed much later this year, but also amid conflicting signals.

In September, GM spokeswoman Susan Garontakos said there would be a general GM make meeting at the convention.

That's no longer true.

“There have been many changes at GM” since September, Carney said.

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100107/RETAIL07/100109948/1379#ixzz0by0ODz9Y

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