Ms. Dominguez, who represents the western region on GM's national Minority Dealer Advisory Council, was impressed by Mr. Whitacre when he attended a recent council meeting. Now she's looking forward to hearing from two other new executives – Mark Reuss, president of GM North America, and Joel Ewanick, a former marketing guru with Hyundai and Nissan, who's now vice president of U. S. marketing.
"I like the new management line-up," says Ms. Dominguez. "I hear a lot of good things about them and I think GM now has in place a good team who are able to make decisions."
The New Product Line-up
Above all, what's really revving up Hispanic dealerships are GM's vehicles which dealers say have never been better.
"At the end of the day, it all comes back to product," says Mr. Palacios. "That's what drives GM."
Mr. Palacios, whose two dealerships employ about 150 people and who has begun hiring again as sales pick up, is bullish about the latest Cadillacs in his showrooms.
"Cadillac has been a leader in technology and luxury for decades," he says.
He's confident those standards are being upheld by the likes of the CTS -- "a phenomenal seller that hits all demographics" – and the crossover SRX – "a utility that drives like a car."
Mr. Palacios says customers cannot find better than the Escalade for luxury utility while he's also excited about the high performance CTS-V sedan and the sporty CTS Coupe, both expected out around early August.
Mr. Shaw especially likes the new Buick Regal and Chevy's high-performance Camaro ("very, very hot"), and is looking forward to the launch of the Camaro convertible which he expects next year. The Camaro has other admirers too – Mr. Palacios describes it as a "phenomenally beautiful vehicle" with great power and efficiency.
Other Chevys that Mr. Shaw reckons are well worth a second look are the award-winning Malibu and the Equinox, a midsize crossover SUV with improved fuel efficiency and plenty of room for five.
The Equinox is one of the cases where he has been unable to source enough new vehicles to keep up with demand, though GM is responding by ramping up the supply chain in Canada.
Mr. Shaw also likes the line-up of GM's heavy-duty pickup trucks, including GMC's Sierra and Chevy's Silverado, especially the 3500HD. This truck has earned glowing reviews including this comment from the auto Web site Edmunds.com: "When you're talking really serious workhorses, a Budweiser Clydesdale has nothing over the 2010 Chevrolet Silverado."
From his GMC product line, Mr. Murgado singles out the Terrain SUV, the rugged Yukon, Sierra trucks and the crossover Acadia which he says seats up to eight and offers the utility of an SUV while functioning like a car.
Ms. Dominguez says GM has tremendous products in the pipeline and on the ground.
She's excited about a promotional program in Denver this summer in which GM will showcase the latest models at major sports events, festivals and popular gathering places like Starbucks.
After the Regal's great reviews, she believes it will be "revolutionary for the brand" and she's equally enthusiastic about another consistently best-selling Buick, the Enclave, a "very appealing, very stylish" combined SUV and family car.
In addition, two upcoming releases are eagerly awaited by GM dealers and customers alike: Mr. Henderson says the fuel-efficient Cruze, expected to get up to 40mpg on the highway, is due out in late summer and the electric Volt around November.
The Stimulus Worked
The government bailout of GM was a controversial move and Mr. Shaw, for one, believes it hurt the public perception of GM, "especially truck buyers ... they didn't like it." He also thinks the move was "absolutely required." Otherwise, he says, GM and Chrysler would have gone bankrupt with massive unemployment that would have magnified the recession. "The problems would have been astronomical."
Other dealers agree. "I'm a conservative and a capitalist and I didn't want it at first," admits Mr. Murgado. "But (otherwise) it would have been a catastrophic situation. I feel 100 percent confident GM will pay back all the money."
Mr. Palacios says the bailout, though far from ideal, was necessary to keep GM afloat.
He believes the government money averted what would have been a catastrophe for the auto industry and the U. S. economy. Ms. Dominguez puts it more succinctly: "Without the GM bailout, I don't know if I'd be here today."
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