Jun 19

Think you’ve got image issues? Try selling Buicks

The New York Times has a brutally depressing story about a failing Buick dealership in Columbus, Ohio.Buick_2
The piece is a sad, yet compelling, read because it encapsulates
so much of the pain being felt by Americans everywhere.

Buick has been in trouble for years. It’s perceived as a tired brand for an older, dying audience demographic (indeed, Buick owners average 60 years of age). That said, it took the recent gas crisis to apply the coup de grace to many dealerships like Len Immke Buick. Why? Because Buick doesn’t make any small, energy efficient automobiles.

Instead, what remains of the Immke dealership tries to peddle three different types of large, gas-guzzling boats. In their halcyon days, Len Immke sold 200 cars a month. Today, they’re lucky to sell that many in a year. Some days, no one even enters the store. The sales team was downsized a few years ago, everyone took pay cuts and the salesmen now double as janitors after hours since they can’t afford to hire an outside service.

Buick is dead. The body may still be showing a pulse. But, it’s just a matter of time before the plug is pulled. And, when it is, Len Immke Buick and hundreds of similar dealerships will close. The ripple effect will heighten the pain that already exists in towns and cities like Columbus. And, what will the salesmen, many of whom are in their 40s and 50s do for employment and health care coverage?

When senior management fails at its mission, everyone loses. And, when a brand’s image and reputation are beyond repair, it’s time to euthanize the body. It’s just too bad the men who mismanaged Buick over the years aren’t held accountable for this debacle. As one of my bosses liked to say, “Someone should take a bullet.”