General Motors plans open houses at two Suffolk dealerships Saturday in a pilot program aimed at retaining as customers the owners of Hummers, Pontiacs and Saturns -- which are being discontinued -- and retaining the customers of GM dealerships that have closed during the recession.
The events, to include free car washes, product displays and new-vehicle test drives, will be at the not-yet-officially opened North Shore Chevrolet of Smithtown, 920 Middle Country Rd. in St. James, and at the King O'Rourke Auto Group's Smithtown location at 756 Rte. 347, where it retails Cadillac, Buick and GMC vehicles, GM said.
Dave Perricone, general sales manager at King O'Rourke, says GM executives will be on hand, too. "They're really on a fact-finding mission," he said, "to come and take the pulse of the public's perception of them in a very important area for General Motors."
Dan Adamchek, northeast regional sales and marketing executive for Chevrolet, said the event is, in essence, an expansion on what would have been a grand opening event for North Shore Chevrolet.
This area of Suffolk, he said, has lost three Chevrolet dealerships in recent years -- Hustedt in Centereach, Williams in St. James and, most recently, Ramp in Port Jefferson Station. "Some of our customers really feel like they've been abandoned," he said. If the event is deemed a success, it'll probably be repeated at dealerships in Philadelphia next, he said.
Ray Tantillo, whose family will operate North Shore Chevrolet and also has full or partial ownerships in a number of other new vehicle dealerships in the county, says that he's prepared for about 700 guests on Saturday and that he'll have about 20 dealership staff on hand. "We'll be open for business probably around May 15," he said.
GM spokeswoman Carolyn Markey says GM also is sending engineers, designers, quality control and marketing executives, and some assembly line workers to the two dealerships to chat and answer questions.
At least a dozen of Long Island's GM dealerships have closed since the recession began two years ago -- GM couldn't provide an exact count.
Meanwhile, growing numbers of Long Islanders have abandoned GM and other Detroit brands for import marques. In December, the latest period for which detailed figures are available, eight in 10 vehicles newly registered on Long Island bore Asian or European nameplates.