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Oldsmobile Division Mgr. John Rock Talks About Olds Future

09/06/96

Big John Rock, clad in a western shirt with string tie, met 100 members of the Motor Press Guild for lunch near LAX today and, after showing he had one great sense of humor (GM is having a 100 year centennial but being GM it's taking them 102 years to pull it off), he admitted that Olds sales were in the sewer but a grand plan was rolling out for the General's oldest division that will make it profitable in 1998. He said that he has regular seances with Oldsmobile founder, Ransom E. Olds and they both admit that the division is 70% healthy but still screwed up. Rock who took over the divisions reigns in 1992 concentrated his remarks on new products coming and new methods of selling.

PRODUCTS
He spoke about new products in terms of the Oldsmobile "showroom"... the product line. The Bravada sport utility is undergoing a facelift for 1998, as are the sleek Aurora and Silhouette minivan. The Cutlass Supreme will be replaced with the Olds Intrigue. The oldest nameplate in the line, the 98 will cease production next May. New products include the Antares--sort of an Aurora II--and the Alero mid size f-passenger which again will have Aurora-like styling, 4-wheel disc brakes, and a 3.4 liter V6 motor. It will be available as a four-door and a two-door coupe. It will replace the Achieva.

SALES
1996 sales are off 20%, but his division is up 6% over their '96 sales forecast. A couple of years ago they tried to "Saturn-ize" Olds but it didn't work. A one price policy didn't appeal to Oldsmobiles 2940 dealers, and reducing dealer's profits to 10% per vehicle was met with mixed reactions. Some customers want to negotiate and all customers want honesty. They will later in 1996 establish "pricing centers" in dealerships to encourage customer shopping. Olds will establish a club of "signature" dealers who adhere to strict fair policy principles. Olds will have a mediocre 1997 sales--about 350,000 units--and will return to profitability in 1998 with 6% of the new car market. The division is looking into permanent demo centers where the customer prospect can drive a new car for more than the usual round-the-block drive from a retail store.

RACING
Olds is dropping sponsorship of some IMSA race teams, but will continue to supply engines to GTS cars and WSC racers. They are cutting back because of the cost and the fact they they are getting heavily involved with the IRL as engine suppliers

Bill Maloney -- The Auto Channel