Special Coverage

NADA Convention & Exposition

SAN FRANCISCO – The new General Motors Co. is consumed by an old problem – poor distribution in the U.S. market’s most vibrant regions, says the auto maker’s North America president.

Mark Reuss says GM’s 2009 bankruptcy and the ensuing dealer-network reduction “destroyed” the auto maker’s presence on the East and West coasts. To remedy the situation, GM is reviewing its coverage.

Says Don Johnson, vice president-U.S. sales: “There are areas that we should be, but we’re not.”

Neither Reuss nor Johnson say GM is contemplating expansion. Both, however, note the problem preceded bankruptcy.

GM has just under 4,500 U.S. dealers, down from a pre-bankruptcy total of 6,150. As of Dec. 31, the auto maker had 227 dealers in the all-important California market.

GM’s sales are strongest in the Midwest.

Product mix also is a problem in the coastal markets, Reuss tells journalists here during a break in the National Automobile Dealers Assn. convention. “There are some things we need that we don’t have,” he says, declining to offer details.

But Reuss bristles at the suggestion GM’s new offerings are sparse this year. In particular, he mentions the Chevrolet Sonic small car and Chevrolet Camaro convertible, while noting 2011 will mark a full year of availability for GM’s heavy-duty pickups and the Cadillac CTS coupe and wagon.

On the upside for GM’s West Coast performance, the new-for-’11 Chevrolet Cruze compact car is “turning fast” in California market, Reuss says.

And he anticipates enthusiastic reaction to the Eco and RS variants, expected to arrive in showrooms in volume this quarter.

The Eco’s “hybrid-like” 40 mpg (5.9 L/100 km) fuel-economy rating is “hugely compelling,” Reuss says. The RS features sportier styling.

GM delivered 13,631 Cruzes in January, enough to rank 11th among the U.S. car market’s top 15 sellers, according to Ward’s data.

Meanwhile, Reuss reveals leasing rose 8% in January, following a 14.5% jump in December.

Noting industry levels average in the 20% range, GM’s performance in the market is “OK,” he says. Reuss adds the auto maker has no planning assumptions for leasing. “I don’t want to have a target of leasing,” he says.

emayne@wardsauto.com