Still, he acknowledged supply problems and says GM is increasing Equinox and Terrain production in Canada while adding third shifts for Chevy Traverse and other mid-sized SUVs in Michigan, at GM's pick-up plant in Indiana, and for the Chevy Malibu and Buick LaCrosse in Kansas.
Ivette Dominguez, owner and president of Alpine Buick GMC, in Denver, believes 2010 is definitely turning around as the improving status of GM begins to trickle down to the showroom floor.
"We're seeing new clients in the showroom and people changing to GM brands," something Ms. Dominguez attributes to a better public image for GM and its products. Bottom line: first quarter revenue was up about 75 percent.
Last year auto dealers were spinning their wheels in a sluggish economy, unable to find much traction in the face of high unemployment and a tight credit market in which banks were reluctant to finance new cars and trucks.
Today dealers say unemployment remains a negative issue even though the rate appears to be leveling off. However, they say credit restrictions have eased and a crucial third factor has emerged: an uptick in consumer confidence.
"The American consumer is a great consumer," says Mr. Murgado. "And consumer confidence is coming back." Mr. Palacios echoes that sentiment and believes there's now more confidence in GM and more faith in the auto industry.
Market Demand is Reversing
But something else is at work here too. A recent Wall Street Journal story about a Commerce Department report on surging retail sales saw this as a sign of demand, held in check by the recession, finally spilling over into the marketplace.
"I think there's tremendous pent-up demand," says Mr. Shaw, noting that people have been keeping cars longer so that the average age is rising. "I think that demand is going to be released gradually, right through the next five to six years."
Ms. Dominguez, who employs about 50 staff at Alpine, is equally optimistic. She reckons consumers really held back last year and now they're ready to "get out there and spend some money."
One other factor coming into play may be old-fashioned loyalty. Mr. Murgado says GM has been going through some of the toughest times in its incredible history.
"Americans love an underdog story," he says. "They love GM and have a lot of loyalty."
Mr. Henderson says that loyalty is well placed given the increasingly high quality of GM products. He said between 2007 and 2009, the company reduced warranty claims by half and recall costs by 75 percent meaning, among other benefits higher residual and resale values for buyers.
But dealerships are also repaying GM brand loyalty and rewarding new clients with special deals and all sorts of additional service perks. For example, Alpine offers a 100,000-mile or six-year warranty while Brickell provides $3000 worth of free services over five years.
GM's New Image and Management
One way GM's new image is manifesting itself is by people switching brands. In Miami, Mr. Murgado describes the popular Buick Enclave as "one of our best conquest vehicles" as it reels in previous owners of Jaguar, BMW, Mercedes and Lexus.
Similarly, he says the Buick LaCrosse, after its complete makeover, is now a world-class vehicle with all the European features, enabling it to woo customers who might otherwise have considered the BMW 5 series, Lexus 350 or Mercedes E class.
Something else that's putting a spring into the step of Hispanic dealerships is their renewed faith in the leadership of GM, starting at the top with new chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre.
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