Richard Truett - Automotive News - September 21, 2009
When General Motors Co. sells the last new Pontiac sometime in the next few months, the 84-year-old brand will pass into the history books. But it will linger in GM's corporate rearview mirror for years. That's because more than 1 million Pontiacs on the road are still under warranty.
GM is bound by federal law to provide replacement parts for Pontiacs for at least 10 years or the useful life of a vehicle. But GM has another motive for making sure those drivers stay happy: It wants to shift Pontiac owners to one of its four surviving brands -- Chevrolet, GMC, Buick or Cadillac -- for new purchases.
That will be difficult. At a recent dealer meeting in suburban Detroit, GM officials told Buick-GMC-Pontiac dealers that the company must do a better job of retaining Pontiac owners than it did keeping Oldsmobile buyers when that brand died in 2004.
In the past five years, 80 percent of Oldsmobile drivers have defected to non-GM brands.
GM hopes to retain service business from Pontiac owners by
• Giving Pontiac owners contact information for nearby GM dealers
• Enabling all GM dealers to provide parts for Pontiacs
• Making it easy to find dealers online and by phone
• Encouraging Pontiac owners to use OnStar to get dealer location information
• Making special tools available to non-Pontiac dealers
GM has appointed a team of marketing, warranty, customer relations and sales executives to devise plans to retain customers from all of the brands GM is shedding, including Saab, Saturn and Hummer. GM calls these customers free agents.
Dilts says a 50 percent customer retention rate is realistic.
GM plans to communicate better and more often with Pontiac owners than it did with Oldsmobile drivers, says spokesman McDonald: "We will reach out and tell them that we'd love to keep their business, and here's where a dealer is who is close by."
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