A reprint from a Morton Times article, 6-17-09.
Grimm, owner of Lighthouse Automotive Buick/GMC, and Rinkenberger, general manager at Lighthouse Automotive, said they were both confident in the way they did business — but the question of ‘what if?’ never left their minds.
After General Motors filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy June 1, GM dealerships across the nation could only await news from their parent company on whether or not the car manufacturer would allow them to continue doing business.
“Bottom line — to be in Chapter 11 is not a good thing,” Grimm said.
While it was nearly impossible to ignore the possibility of GM filing for bankruptcy after all of the reports and speculation in the news, Grimm said Lighthouse Automotive tried to operate without worrying about what was happening at the top.
“The way we’ve operated, we just tried to forget about everything else and worry about our customers,” he said. “I believe that is what carried us through … that and God’s help.”
When the dealership received a letter June 2 from GM inviting the Morton dealership to be a part of the new GM, Grimm and Rinkenberger said it was a relief — but the two were confident the business was doing everything it could to stay afloat.
In fact, more recently, business has been solid, Grimm said.
The decision on behalf of GM came down to three criteria based on a dealership’s performance.
“What kept dealers in the ballgame was good market effectiveness, customer satisfaction index and market effectiveness,” Grimm said.
The customer satisfaction index, commonly referred to as CSI, coupled with market effectiveness, accounted for 80 percent of what GM was looking for in keeping or shutting down dealerships, Grimm said.
Knowing that Lighthouse Automotive was performing well, Grimm said, was something with which the dealership could be satisfied. But, even then, the question still lingered.
Though GM based its decision on the aforementioned criteria, there was no guarantee the car manufacturer did not consider any other aspects — and, that was why the worry remained.
“We knew we had a good score,” Grimm said. “The worst thing to happen to a dealer with a good score was the loss of a franchise.”
Rinkenberger said he remained “cautiously optimistic” throughout the decision.
“You always go to bed at night and think, ‘Gee whiz, what if that happened?’” he said.
“We haven’t had to lay anybody off,” Rinkenberger said. “It gets real when you start talking about having to lay someone off.”
Such a decision never had to be made, and Grimm said the Buick/GMC dealership will look forward. Additionally, he said, the American public will be “reintroduced” to Buick.
General Motors will continue to manufacture Chevrolets, Buicks, GMCs and Cadillacs.
Why does Buick stay?
Since speculation that GM was going bankrupt, Grimm said media dwelled on the mindset that GM vehicles are poorly made. Whether it is related to poor gas mileage or design, Grimm said that is not the case anymore — nor has it been for the past 20 years.
“GM cars and trucks are better today than they have ever been,” he said. “A lot of these problems were 15 to 20 years ago, in the ‘70s, ‘80s and early ‘90s.”
“We’re actually less busy in the shop warranty-wise,” Grimm said. “The average warranty is down 50 percent.”
“Some people wonder why Buick stays,” Rinkenberger said.
For a long time now, Buick vehicles have been thought to be for the older population, Rinkenberger said.
“Most people don’t know that Buick is the No. 1 brand in China,” he added.
Grimm said he is excited about the brand and what it has to offer.
“We’re really excited about (Buick) more than anything,” he said. “The American public is going to be reintroduced to Buick.
“We see Buick as the growth brand,” he added.
The look and feel of a Buick vehicle has changed, Grimm said. He pointed out the 2010 Buick LaCrosse as an example, which has a sleek, modern look.
Grimm said Lighthouse Automotive has sold Buicks to a diverse demographic. People between the ages of 35 to 55 have been common Buick owners.
Reason to be thankful
“We are sincerely thanking the people in the community and the surrounding area for their support — that is so critical,” Rinkenberger said.
Customer satisfaction, coupled with strong hiring and employment practices, Rinkenberger said, has made for a strong business. Those factors played a lot in GM’s decision to keep the dealership around.
“(Employees) work with integrity, and they work hard,” he added.
Grimm agreed it is a combination of both customers and employees at the dealership that make the business so strong.
“Between our customers and our employees, they are really the key that makes this work,” he said. “We’re very thankful.”
“Now, all we have to worry about is making money,” Grimm laughed.