I talked to Steve Roberts for about ten minutes on Saturday. They still have a few (about a half dozen) new GM cars on the lot, but cannot order any more. Though the contract that Roberts has with GM was supposed to run into 2010, GM is trying to cut the ties as quickly as possible. I told him that he needed to take a picture of the last new car--it will be a bit of Rensselaer history. Maybe it will be one of the three Impalas (gray-gray-black) shown below. They are three of the last new cars on the lot.
Some of the dealerships that have lost their GM backing have folded, but the Roberts' dealership will continue, selling used cars and cars picked up at auction, much like White's does at present. I wonder if it might not be a good time for Honda and Toyota to pick up some of these abandoned dealerships and reach out into rural American.
GM (and the other American auto companies) seem to think that by reducing the number of dealerships, they will cut costs but not lose much in sales. In other words, if all the people buying GM products would continue to buy GM products whether they could buy them locally or had to travel a bit to get them, GM would have the same sales but lower costs because it would be cheaper to supply 3000 dealerships than 6000. However, that raises the question of loyalty--to what are consumers loyal? Are they more loyal to the brand or to the dealership? Do they care about the reputation of the dealership, or is that not a factor in their decisions? I do not know the answer, but it should make an interesting poll question, and it allows this post to be an audience participation post. Please vote in the poll below, and if you want to explain your vote, feel free to add a comment.