Odds 'n' Ends
GM Doesn't Want My Business
by Steve Wood
Janaury 30, 2014




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I'm going to put a new set of tires on my 2000 GMC Sierra truck tomorrow. In the next week or so, it will also be undergoing a bit of bodywork, actually welding, to keep one side of the bed from falling off!

My 2000 GMC SierraPutting serious money into a fourteen year old pickup truck doesn't sound like a good plan, but it's about the only option I have. I spent the month of January shopping for a new, regular cab, standard bed, 4-wheel drive pickup truck that was not loaded with expensive options. What I found was that no dealers in western Indiana or eastern Illinois stock such a truck. Almost everything on their lots has a crew cab and a sticker price near $40,000.

When presented my build of what I wanted in a truck, each dealer did the same search of area dealers that I had already done online and found what I already knew. No such trucks were available locally. And when presented with an obviously serious, potential buyer, each dealer wanted me to test drive something that didn't come close to what I wanted. But nary a one thought to put something on their lot that I might want (without a signed, paid order).

Kyle Stock wrote a piece for BloombergBusinessweek last fall, Are GM's New Pickups Too Expensive, about the new line of GM trucks. His title gives away the story, but the comments below the article are incredible. And I thought I was the only one wanting a basic GMC pickup. Declining truck sales figures for GM would indicate otherwise.

Frustrated and close to giving up, I decided to write the new CEO of GM, Mary Barra. While I was pretty sure Ms. Barra wasn't going to pick up the phone and call me to help me in my search, I thought someone at GM might nudge a nearby dealer to shift their ordering pattern to some cheaper trucks. In response, I received a form letter from the GM Customer Assurance Center that didn't address any of the issues I had raised in my letter.

I interpreted the response as GM saying, "We don't want your business."

So it appears that my old pickup will do our hauling until it dies. And I'll soon begin shopping for an all wheel drive auto not made by GM or Ford. I always thought Honda CR-Vs were sorta cool.

Update 2/5/2014: GM's sales were down 12% in January. The automaker blamed January's bad weather for the decline, but I suspect experiences similar to mine with the auto maker may have something to do with their poor sales.

Update 3/18/2014: My GMC Sierra lost its fuel pump in early February, pushing me to extend my search for a new, more dependable truck. I finally found a truck that met my needs on the far northside of Indianapolis, a 120 mile drive from home.

2014 Chevy Silverado work truckThe new, 2014 Chevy Silverado wasn't the color I wanted, but it fit my requirements of a standard cab, full bed, and four-wheel drive. It had a lot of extras I didn't want or need (towing package, power door locks and windows, bed liner, etc.), but the dealer offered a fair price, and I started to make the deal.

Then Penske Chevrolet's finance manager stepped in, insisting I finance the truck through one of the nation's largest and most disreputable lenders. He seemed determined to kill the deal, and things began to get ugly. He refused to even accept payment from an immediate wire transfer from our bank, which has a branch two blocks from the dealership, who had pre-approved our financing. I ended up just writing a check for the new truck, something I wouldn't normally be able to do and recovered my savings the next day from the friendly finance officer at our local bank.

The truck has turned out to be a good one so far. It's four-wheel drive has already come in handy during the heavy snows we've experienced this winter. And the full size (8') bed has gotten a little work hauling ten foot lengths of PVC pipe for a cold frame I'm building. Ten foot material simply doesn't ride well in the shorter truck beds GM is now pushing. The "work truck," a GM designation, will begin getting dirty later this month as I haul loads of compost and topsoil for our garden and yard.

Unfortunately, I didn't receive the necessary certificate of origin for the truck until yesterday. That document is required to title and license the truck. After bugging Penske for almost a month, their title officer finally FedExed the required document, which was supposed to come in the mail within ten business days of the purchase. During a phone conversation, the title officer let it slip that the difficult finance manager had been the problem in getting the document, holding things up for some unknown reason, other than the man was a total jerk.

So while I'm happy to have the truck I needed, I suspect when we trade in Annie's Civic (which came from Penske Honda), we won't be patronizing Penske again.

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updated 3/18/2014
©2014 Steven L. Wood