ONE OF MY FAVORITE CARS - THE BUICK RIVIERA - may be coming back, only with twice as many doors as before.

General Motors Corp. last year stopped production on the luxury coupe, citing poor sales.

I asked Roger Adams, general marketing manager for Buick, about the possibility of GM resurrecting the Riviera, a sculpted car if there ever was one.

That car won the hearts and minds of most Buick dealers, even though unsold inventories were uncomfortably high.

Mr. Adams says it won't be back as a two-door, but may indeed return as something "more adaptable to the marketplace." In other words, as a sedan.

GM Chairman John F. Smith likes the idea of a four-door Riviera.

"I think it would be a great car," he tells me.

The only thing wrong with the dearly departed Riviera was that it didn't have enough doors. That car defies critics who say GM doesn't know how to style cars in a creative way.

Knowing when to switch voices Patricia Ballard, vice president of operations for Electroguard in Norcross, GA, has a pleasant voice with a nice Southern accent.

You can hear her recorded message on speakers, greeting people after-hours at dealerships protected by Electroguard security systems. Her recording provides business hours and other information about the dealership to off-hour visitors.

But at a programmed time and depending on the location of the dealership premises, the greeting switches to a warning - and the voice switches from female to male.

"People like a woman's voice to greet them. And a man's voice is better for 'excusing' them from the property," says Ms. Ballard.

The police are called if unauthorized visitors ignore the warning and stay in the dealership's off-limits areas which Electroguard surveillance cameras monitor.

Reality check for Audi sales trainees Audi of America Inc. Vice President Len Hunt doubts car buyers will go all the way on the Internet.

He waves off the scenario that some day people will routinely buy their cars with a click-click here and a click-click there.

Mr. Hunt says, in response to a question from Ward's Dealer Business Editor-at-Large Dave Smith, "People use the Internet to gather information, but it reaches a point where they stop and want to talk to a salesperson."

But those conversations are different than those of yesteryear because showroom-bound customers now are arriving armed with information garnered on-line.

"We must re-orient sales people who feel they must guide the customer through a myriad of information, when in fact the shoppers are coming in well-informed.

"We tell sales trainees, 'Look, customers may come in knowing more than you do.'"

What those buyers are looking for instead is a "customer experience" and consultation. They want that because buying a vehicle involves a very important part of their lives - their mobility, says Mr. Hunt.

"Sometimes sales people are too busy selling products when they should be building relationships," he says. 'That's what the customer is interested in."

'What's a Toyota?' My dad did something odd back in 1966 - he bought a Toyota. Neighbors came over not to "ooh" and "aah" but to ask: What the heck is that?

Five years later, Toyota had gained some ground in this country. But domestic automakers didn't seem too worried. An example of that self-assurance is the following anecdote from this month's issue of Car and Driver magazine:

It seems Carroll Shelby in 1971 told Lee Iacocca that he might buy a Toyota dealership. Mr. Iacocca told him that would be a big mistake. Mr. Shelby asked why. Mr. Iacocca replied, "Because we're going to kick their asses back into the Pacific Ocean."

Today, the Toyota Camry is America's best-selling car. And Toyota Motor Sales America Inc. announces plans to put a new product in every U.S. light-vehicle segment within 18 months. That's because Toyota wants to be more risk-oriented in this marketplace.

Company Vice President Jim Press says, "We've never been considered bold, daring."

Yet it was pretty bold to come to the U.S. way back when, with curious-looking cars that had a lot of people wondering.

Millenium or Millennium? In our September cover story on 2000 vehicles, we referred to the "millenium" with one "n" rather than "millennium" with a double "n."

At least one person called to say we misspelled the word. I replied that we didn't, that, in fact, our computer spell-check says both are acceptable.

But I later looked up the word in several other dictionaries. All but one says the correct spelling is "millennium." The Oxford dictionary says "millenium" is a common misspelling.


I guess I can say that at least one dictionary says "millenium" is OK. On the other hand, if I had to do it over again, I'd certainly double up.

Steve Finlay is editor of Ward's Dealer Business. His e-mail address is: