Fox Host Charges GM: You Sank My Dealership

June 12, 2009


Between Carrie Prejean and Gretchen Carlson, it's been made clear this week that you don't want to piss off a beauty queen.

Prejean's been slagged this week in the press--but championed by Fox News for her stance on gay marriage, which in part got her removed as Miss California. Now, former Miss America Gretchen Carlson is using the Fox platform to tackle General Motors, which is in the process of closing thousands of dealers across the country as it downsizes and pushes for a speedy exit from Chapter 11.

Carlson's parents own a GM dealership in Minnesota that's being identified for closure, despite making money, Carlson says. This week, she's been in a full-court press to publicize (ethically or not, on the Fox morning show and other outlets) what she thinks is unfair closures of GM dealers, including the GM dealership owned by her family for 90 years.

Yesterday, Carlson appeared on co-Fox host Glenn Beck's evening talk show and said the GM moves were illegal. "It gets worse because by Friday (June 12) terminated dealers by GM have to sign what's called a wind-down agreement," Carlson said. "And if they don't sign it, they have a gun to their head - they will not get any warranties on any of the vehicles that are currently sitting in their lots, which the judge [FNC contributor Andrew Napolitano] tells me is illegal."

"Capitalism, some say, is being crushed," she said this morning on the Fox & Friends program.

What's a car company to do? Send out an equally attractive blond with business acumen and a valid counter-argument--in this case, Pontiac/GMC/Buick division chief Susan Docherty. As Carlson charged that GM said it would only terminate underperforming dealerships, Docherty explained rationally how GM had a four-point plan to shutter dealerships--dealerships that did not fit the company's targets for profitability, capitalization, customer service and sales effectiveness. To stay alive, Docherty said, dealers "needed to perform well in all four categories."

Carlson's counterpunch: what if GM management were held accountable in same categories? Why are profitable dealers being closed when they were "not asking for billions of dollars in handouts?"

"Take a look at what has happened in our industry," Docherty swung back. "Our industry has gone from being anywhere from 17 million, 18 million units annually to down to 9. Surviving in an environment where the industry has been cut in half requires all of us take drastic measures."

With a final jab, Carlson accused GM of both purging dealers in "an assault on private enterprise," and charged that GM CEO Fritz Henderson was influenced by Rep. Barney Frank (D.-Mass.) in choosing to delay the closing of a Massachusetts warehouse facility located in his district--all due to political influence.

Docherty's response: "I have no problem admitting on your program that there are no political favors going on here." Many dealers have appealed the GM closure process and 41 have convinced the company of their value, she added.

It's a classic macro- versus microeconomic argument--or is it populism versus pragmatism? Whatever the case, we're just glad to see two tough ladies battling on morning TV without having to tune into the USA Network.

Lagniappe: here's Carlson and 50 other "talented, progressive women" at the 1989 pageant. Note the aggressive use of polka dots:

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