GM Dealers Feel The Pinch

Pontiac GM dealer Russ Shelton, President and CEO of Shelton Pontiac-Buick-GMC in Rochester Hills, Michigan
Russ Shelton loves his job. Selling cars, he says, is his passion.

"There's never any more fun than selling a car. We've enjoyed a good 50 years."

He is the president and CEO of Shelton Pontiac-Buick-GMC in Rochester Hills, Mich., a dealership his father started in 1958. Soon though, it could become Shelton Buick-GMC.

In the restructuring plan GM submitted to Congress earlier this week, the company announced that it would be downsizing the Pontiac label in order to cut costs. GM will turn it into a "specialty brand with reduced product offerings," according to their report.

Shelton explains that Pontiac will likely become, "a model within a model like Corvette is to Chevrolet."

Pontiac sales account for about 50 percent of his business and losing or downsizing the brand would be devastating. "As we always say, if you don't sell, you don't eat.

"Being in business 50 years, I think we've pretty much been through everything. But this is totally different than anything I can remember," he said.

Just 10 miles down the road from Shelton's dealership, the Orion GM assembly plant produces hundreds of Pontiac G6's daily - Shelton's best-selling car.

A reduction in the brand spells job cuts at the plant. "[Pontiacs are] 40 percent of our build," says Sherri Ferrier, an assembly line employee at the factory. "So if that shuts a shift down, there's more job loss." The plant operates three shifts, 24 hours a day. The Pontiac G6 accounts for about half of the plant's production.

Says Steve Thomson, a quality network representative at the GM plant, "Before the crunch, we couldn't build G6s fast enough. There was only a three-day supply out there."

How times have changed.