Unnamed Cadillac Dealership Case Study
When General Motors entered bankruptcy in 2009, it announced an aggressive restructuring from top to bottom. However, the effort proved that sometimes the giant company wasn't able to tell its top from its bottom. When it notified the owner of the top Cadillac dealership in one Midwestern state that it was pulling the Cadillac brand out of their showroom, the dealership contacted DPK Public Relations. With the future of the dealership and the economy of this small Midwest town at stake, we shaped the messages that ultimately saved the car company from making a big mistake.
We gathered and analyzed customer research and comparative sales data to build the case that despite the fact that the dealership was located outside of an urban area, it excelled at Cadillac sales -- achieving the top ranking in the state.
We communicated on three fronts:
In direct appeals to decision makers at GM via letters, presentations and phone calls.
Via a media relations effort to explain the issue to local stakeholders and customers in order to engage them to take up the fight.
Through litigation support, by creating powerful communications for the arbitration process.
As one analyst noted, “The decision to have Cadillac abandon small-city and town markets where it dominates as a luxury brand to concentrate on large metropolitan areas where it does not is the automotive equivalent of New Coke.” Even so, we knew this was going to be a data-driven decision. GM and arbitrators would not be swayed by baseless or emotional appeals, so we focused on tangible, provable data to carry our story. For example:
According to the 2008 Dealer Retail Sales Performance Review, the dealership had achieved a superior performance rating.
Their Retail Sales Index ranked in the top 10 percent of all Cadillac dealerships in the state.
In 2008, their Cadillac sales more than tripled the state average and quadrupled the national average.
The dealership reported a 21 percent increase in Cadillac sales in 2008 over 2007.
They also achieved 100 percent CSI ratings on Cadillac and a Superior Sales effectiveness Rating for Cadillac.
In this case, only one outcome could be considered a success: convincing GM to reinstate our client's Cadillac dealership. As noted in The Detroit Bureau:
"While some dealers simply chose to accept the action, (others) began to fight back, many taking their case to Washington, where automotive retailers have traditionally been a powerful lobbying force. The move proved effective and Congress soon passed a measure requiring arbitration between those dealers being cut by GM....
"GM soon began to hint that it would raise a white flag. In January, CEO Ed Whitacre suggested the company might have erred in the calculations it used to decide whom to cut. Then, in March, GM announced it would reinstate some of the retailers on the wind-down list. Company officials clearly suggested that more might be reinstated, whether through arbitration or direct discussion."
For our client, the reinstatement has been invaluable, helping them to maintain relationships with loyal customers and contributing to hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales annually.