"We've said we would consider (foreign) corporate ownership, if it's the right situation," said Mustafa Mohatare, director of trade analysis at General Motors. But, he added, "most of the American and foreign (auto makers) have a strong preference for American ownership."
Kleinke of Ford says auto makers like local owners because "our experience tells us, the closer you can bring the dealer to the customer, the closer we can achieve customer satisfaction. It's easier for an individual to be close to the customer than a foreign company."
Kleinke adds that Ford relaxed its policy for Lex because of the structure of the London concern's agreement with Campbell, an agreement in which "Ford reserves the right to approve any changes they make.
Cause for Concern
"We had Lex investigated very thoroughly," he adds. "They had been looking at the U.S. for about two years."
Still, the increased interest by foreigners in U.S. dealerships has some American dealers worried. "With the investment in these dealerships, it's becoming harder for small people to buy them," said Steve Ellis, sales manager of Bill Murphy Buick in Culver City. "Unfortunately, these foreigners have a lot of money. I'm not real thrilled about it."
I think the manufacturers are more concerned about the capital behind these foreign investors" than with what country they are from, he said.
Other dealers complain that American dealer traditions may go by the boards as foreigners become a greater factor in car retailing.
Said Eddie Schettkoe, sales manager of A. E. Nugent Chevrolet in Los Angeles: "Some of these (foreign-owned) dealers are open on Christmas Day, and I think that stinks."