Not Ready for EverReady

  • December 21, 2023

What does it say about a product when half of the retailers expected to sell it want no part of it? It’s another one of those questions we’re not supposed to voice the obvious answer to.

So let’s do.

About half of the Buick retailers (that is, dealerships) in this country have elected to stop selling anything rather than bankrupt themselves trying to sell the battery powered devices with “Buick” badges on them that parent company General Motors says they must try to sell, even if they can’t.

And pay for the opportunity to do that.

GM – having been pushed by the government to manufacture battery powered devices – applied the push to Buick (and Cadillac) dealers to try to sell them. Dealers were told they would have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each toward that end. The dealerships would have to be updated to deal with the devices; chiefly, this meant spending their money on electrical upgrades so that the devices that GM foisted on them would retain charge while sitting on the lot, not selling. And so that customers (this assumes they could be found) would not accumulate in the waiting room all day, waiting for their device to be charged up enough so they could leave.

It is necessary to keep devices plugged in while they’re not being used for essentially the same reason it’s a good idea to disconnect the battery in a car that will sit for months, unused.

And alligator clamp the battery to a trickle charger, so that when you want the car to start when you need it to, it will.

With the difference being that if it won’t start because the battery died despite your best efforts to prevent that, you generally don’t throw away the car. You buy a new battery. When the car is a device – and its battery has lost its capacity – it’s the device you toss.

Buick dealers were told by GM that in order to keep the devices they were being forced to accept and try to sell, they would have to spend what was necessary to keep them in operable condition – however long that might be.

This would be on top of what they were obliged to spend on the devices, themselves, as part of their “allotment.” Dealers generally don’t get to sell what they want. They are obliged by contract to sell what the parent company sends them. They finance the purchase of their allotment, in the manner of a short-term investment that they hope will reliably generates return enough, soon enough, to pay for what they spent.

This works when cars reliably sell.

It doesn’t when devices don’t.

It isn’t just inventory that accumulates on dealer’s lots. It’s interest – on the short-term loan taken out by the dealer to finance the purchase of the allotment of cars on the lot. It is therefore very much in the dealership’s interest to buy vehicles that sell. Those that don’t aren’t just sitting (and in the case of EVs, costing the dealer money in the form of what it costs to keep them charged while they sit). They are also costing interest, accumulating the longer they sit and don’t sell.

A point comes when the dealership must cut its losses – by paying someone (anyone) to take the thing that’s not selling off the lot, as that’s worth more than what it costs to continue losing money keeping the thing on the lot, collecting dust (and interest charges).

That point came this year.

Many – about half – of the total number of Buick dealers decided that spending money on devices that people don’t want to buy and even more money on the hardware needed to keep them from bricking while not selling is not a good way to stay in business. So they decided to go out of business instead. The dealers could accept buyouts, which is better than bankruptcy in that at least the dealer didn’t lose everything. But the people who worked for the dealerships that are closing will lose their jobs – and maybe more, if they can’t find new ones. The managers and technicians and sales people who won’t be working at those Buick stores anymore are among the casualties of “electrification.”

News stories such as this one in USA Today frame this shit-rolls-downhill story interestingly. It says “Late last year, Buick said it would be asking dealers to commit a minimum investment of $300,000 to $400,000 to prepare their stores to sell and service EVs.

Italics added.

Corrections follow:

Buick dealers were not “asked.” To ask implies there is no pressure to agree. Buick dealers were told they would either “invest” hundreds of thousands of their dollars to make dubiously sensible “upgrades” to their stores – or they would be cut loose by GM. This is “asking” like being “asked” to hand over what a thug with a gun in your ribs says is his “fair share” of your money  . . . else you know what.

And “invest”?

To use that word in this context is an etymological obscenity. People – and businesses – do not need to be “asked” (that is, told) to make sound investments because those make rather than lose money. But they do need to be “asked” to make the kinds of “investments” that GM demanded its Buick dealers make.

It will be interesting to see what happens to the remaining Buick dealerships that did make the “investment” demanded by GM in devices they won’t be able to sell.

The same, by the way, will likely be the fate of every other brand of car that has been pushed into trying to sell what most people don’t want to buy. Especially the luxury brands, which previously offered things that other brands didn’t, such as V8 and V12 engines.

Will they be able to get people to spend $100,000 on a Duracell when people can buy a $40,000 EverReady?

We’ll see soon enough.

. . .

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