Message from Detroit tough on Auburn

Looking Behind the Scenes
By: Jim Ruffalo
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Checking the notebook while still chuckling over the suggestion that if President Obama really wanted to close Gitmo, all he has to do is make it a Pontiac dealership. Wish that were my line. Instead, it was told to the Meddlers by local auto dealer Steve Snyder. What’s astonishing here is that Snyder can still laugh and joke in the midst of what’s happening in his world. Halfway through his Tuesday morning presentation, he told the Meddlers that his Gold Rush Chevrolet “store” had, indeed, been among those receiving the you-know-what letter from General Motors. He didn’t say so, but no doubt he knew the missive was from GM because it came postage due. Snyder said the letter informed him that General Motors would not renew his franchise agreement as of Oct. 31 of next year. “There was an appeal process, and I did send about an eight-page appeal, but so far I haven’t heard a thing,” he said. He probably should have included a self-addressed, stamped envelope. His appeal pointed out that GM was using faulty data (imagine!) in arriving at the statistical conclusion that Gold Rush’s sales numbers didn’t keep pace with the demographics of his franchise area. “That’s because they didn’t assign us the correct ‘area of responsibility.’ They had Lincoln in my area, and to get here (Auburn), you have to go right through the Auto Mall where you never get out,” he said. Snyder keeps close tabs on the industry, a habit he developed back when he was 16 and went to work in a General Motors parts department. “I’m told there were about 800 appeals and just 45 were approved,” he added. Maybe he should have sent the appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court. How bad is it? Well, he told the Meddlers that the first thing he does each workday morning is to phone into his dealership. “If the operator answers, I go to work,” he said. Now those who know Snyder are convinced he’s not going away quietly from his Highway 49 business. To the contrary. He says he still has an excellent service shop. Meanwhile, the same economy that caused this republic to accept grand theft auto dealerships as just another step toward recovery has also made used cars — pardon me — pre-owned vehicles — one of the very few viable markets. He has another weapon in the arsenal, that being his nearby Gold Country Subaru. According to Snyder, Subaru was the only marque to show an increase in sales in the United States last year. He also said there are numerous studies in the industry showing that potential customers give a lot of gravity to who the dealer is and to where the cars are being sold. “Many people buy a car from someone they know and trust,” he said, adding, “if that dealership closes, many of those customers will buy another brand, either because the dealership is local or they know the other dealer.” There’s also another factor in the equation. We Americans are — eventually — a fair-minded lot. Fairness is in our DNA. so when we perceive that a big company is screwing its workers or customers, we tend to shop elsewhere. General Motors, Chrysler and all others being bailed out with our very hard-earned tax dollars need to remember this, if they ever knew it at all. ... Good news, finally: A few columns ago, we reported on the Placer Mosquito & Vector Control District as being among those legally enjoined from using adulticide spray, which helps eradicate the adult mosquitoes which carry the dreaded West Nile virus. That original federal court case was adjudicated at Cincinnati, and we can spend a whole column discussing just how environmentalists have turned shopping for a friendly court into a cottage industry. The decision made no sense. So it was great to get an e-mail from Joel Buettner, general manager of the district. His note said that while the inexplicable decision wasn’t immediately reversed, the full panel of Sixth Circuit Court did allow a stay of the decision until April 9, 2011. Who knows, by that time we might invent a new spray that doesn’t offend the surviving environmentalists. Unless, of course, the government decides that adult mosquitoes are just too big to fail. Jim Ruffalo’s column runs Sundays in the Journal. Reach him at