'No news is good news'
Local GM dealers so far avoid cuts by automaker

CONYERS - Local General Motors dealerships said they believe they will continue operating after the ailing carmaker began cutting under-performing dealerships Friday.

General Motors officials announced earlier this week they would begin cutting 1,100 U.S. dealerships from the dealer network as the company continues a restructuring plan.

Word came down that dealers would be notified by letters to be delivered Friday morning.

However, by late afternoon, none of the local GM dealerships had heard anything, which some presumed meant good news.

Billy Fortson, owner of General Motors dealership Ginn Motor Company in Covington, said he's operating on a "No news is good news" philosophy.

"My understanding is if you were affected, you should have received a letter from General Motors stating that when your contract comes up for renewal in October 2010, then you would not be offered a new contract. We did not receive one of those letters," Fortson said.

Ginn received a letter Thursday stating its Chrysler dealership in Covington will remain open.

Fortson said General Motors is not publicly disclosing dealerships that will be closed, adding that Chrysler was required to do so in Bankruptcy Court.

Kim Miles of John Miles Chevrolet in Conyers said she was following what Mark LaNeve, GM vice president of vehicle sales, service and marketing, said in a conference call Friday.

LaNeve said the company would focus on the lowest-performing dealerships in the network. According to LaNeve, there are some dealerships that have sold only 35 vehicles in the past year and they will not be renewed.

Miles said her dealership has surpassed sales projections in the past year, which she said was quite a feat in the current market.

"Our overall performance has made me confident that we would not be a part of 1,100 who will not be renewed," she said. "We beat our projections this year, and I just have to say that is because of our customers' loyalty. They are the ones who do that for us, based on the service we provide. It's not me alone."

Michael Stout, general manager of Lou Sobh Pontiac GMC Buick in Conyers, said his company remains uncertain of its status with General Motors. As with John Miles and Ginn Motors, Stout said he had not heard anything from General Motors concerning the Conyers dealership and expected more information Monday.

Lou Sobh also operates a dealership in Duluth that sells Hummer brand vehicles. General Motors had announced earlier this year it was discontinuing the Pontiac brand and will make an announcement soon on the fate of the Hummer brand.

On Thursday, Chrysler LLC notified a quarter of its U.S. dealerships they would not have their franchise agreement renewed.

Town and Country in Conyers was notified that it will continue selling Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles past this year. In Georgia, 13 Chrysler dealerships will close.

Miles said she felt uncertainty Friday from her employees. She told her sales staff in a morning meeting to try not to focus on the news.

"I don't want to be so blunt, but I told them flat out, 'We're not getting a damn letter,'" she said. "I just wanted them to get busy and get back to work."

She added: "You have to look at the bigger, bigger picture and what's going on at General Motors, and I'm glad I'm not making their decisions."

Jay Jones can be reached at jay.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.