GM and Its Dealers: A Future Worth Fostering
By Harry E. Criswell III
I am proud to be a Chevrolet dealer. I know many East Coast city dwellers believe General Motors is doing "too little, too late" to become a viable, strong company that makes cars for today's consumers. But General Motors was already beginning to emerge as a force to be reckoned with before the economic downturn.
Yes, there were plenty of issues within General Motors, and I have been vocal about trying to get things fixed for years. But despite everything, over the past few years, GM has produced the Chevy Malibu, the 2008 North American Car of the Year; the Cadillac CTS, Motor Trend's 2008 car of the year; and the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid, a full-size SUV that was Green Car journal's 2008 Green Car of the Year and that gets as many miles per gallon in city driving as the Toyota Camry does. Now Buick has just been ranked the most reliable brand by J.D. Power, topping even Lexus, while Chevrolet trucks remain the vehicle of choice for those who build America, from electricians to carpenters to plumbers.
If an import manufacturer achieved those results, you'd be saying: "Why can't GM do that?"
GM's future affects not only our national economy but our local one, as well. As the No. 1 GM dealer in the Washington region, Criswell Chevrolet is a major source of government tax revenue. We pay millions in Maryland taxes every year; we also pay payroll taxes, buy insurance and make capital investments to maintain our facilities. At a time when states are slashing educational and social service budgets, local dealerships are a vital resource. Our taxes help pay for new schools, roads and health clinics.
But we are connected to you through more then just our tax revenue. Criswell is a third-generation, family owned-and-operated GM franchise that is deeply entrenched in the local community. We employ more than 150 people at our Chevrolet dealership, and spend over $1 million a year on advertising in local magazines and newspapers, and on radio and TV stations. We have contracts with security companies, technology providers, printing companies - even The Post itself.
We support numerous Little League, school and county sports programs. We support local charities, the Lions Club, rescue squads and police organizations, plus more school dances, ballet recitals and other events then any one person could attend. That is a legacy of GM's history of encouraging and supporting the efforts of dealerships such as ours to do more then just sell vehicles. The Criswell family of dealerships continues, even in these hard times, to provide as much community support as possible, to figure out ways to keep our employees on the payroll and to give back to those who have supported us.
Yet none of that matters if GM doesn't make cars you want to buy. Although I have import stores, too, I urge you to put away your preconceptions and look at the vehicles being built by the GM of today - and tomorrow. Drive a Malibu and compare it to the imports. Take a new eight-passenger Traverse Crossover for a ride and come marvel at the all-new Camaro, a true sports coupe that gets an estimated 29 mpg on the highway. This is just the beginning of the new GM.
With GM's reorganization, the company will be freed from the shackles of the past to reinvent the automobile as we know it with electric plug-in Chevy Volt, set to arrive in late 2010. It will be able to take the data from the test fleet of Hydrogen Chevy Equinoxes that have been in local consumers' hands for the last year and help America to break its fossil fuel habit.
Right now, we are all having tough conversations about the economy. We are all making hard choices. GM's most recent efforts show the ways it is accelerating the reinvention of its business. General Motors is making the difficult but necessary changes to secure its future as a stronger, leaner company, ready to innovate and face the challenges of the global economy.
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