PORTLAND — Robert Cremonni ordered his new Chevrolet Traverse in mid-January – originally opting for a blue model, but having to settle on a white one, due to availability.
It was the fourth GM vehicle he’d ordered through Fuller Chevrolet GMC in Rockland, and the Tenants Harbor retiree was expecting the SUV around March 11.
He’s still waiting.
“They were wondering why it wasn’t there and I was wondering why it wasn’t there,” said Cremonni.
It turns out Cremonni is one of several Maine consumers who have been affected by corporate problems in the automotive world. A dispute between GM and its hauler, Georgia-based Allied Systems, has delayed delivery of vehicles to various dealerships around the country.
In Maine, many GM dealers contacted said they haven’t had a problem.
“We haven’t really been that impacted,” said Matt Campbell, dealer administrator at Varney GMC in Bangor.
If any vehicles ordered by customers were delayed at the regional distribution in East Brookfield, Mass., due to lack of shippers, Varney sent down employees to drive them up. It’s only been a few vehicles, said Campbell.
Rich Mazurek, general sales manager at Fuller in Rockland, said his dealership has been impacted by the shipping issues, though he called the overall issue “a blip.”
“We’re probably two to three weeks behind in what we would be receiving for shipments,” said Mazurek. “We haven’t gotten any shipments in a couple of weeks.”
Mazurek said there are about 30 cars he’s expecting still down in Massachusetts, including four that were bought and paid for by customers like Cremonni. When customers order cars, the dealership doesn’t give them an exact date of delivery, said Mazurek, because issues can arise, and specifics from the manufacturer can be hard to come by. Fuller has explained the situation to the customers who are expecting cars, said Mazurek.
“Overall, they’ve been understanding. If it extends on too long, they’re going to start to get upset,” he said.
And while Fuller has plenty of cars on the lot, the 30 cars that have been delayed include some hot-selling models, such as the Equinox, Camaro and Terrain.
“Those are cars we’ve been waiting on,” said Mazurek. “Customers want to see them and drive them and probably buy them.”
Clyde Lewis, general manager at Morrison Chevrolet in Ellsworth, said he also has sold four vehicles that are being held up in Massachusetts, and the customers want them.
“We still have vehicles that are sold that we can’t get,” said Lewis. “That’s kind of put us in a hard spot.”
So what’s this all about?
According to published reports, Allied had sought to reduce the wages of its Teamsters union employees by 20 percent, and the union threatened with a strike. When Allied couldn’t cut labor costs, it looked to increase its fees.
On March 16, Allied told GM it would have to pay a 15 percent increase over several years. The next day, Allied retreated from the proposed wage cuts to avoid strike.
But according to GM, the hauler said it would no longer serve clients who refused to pay 15 percent more for the services.
Allied could not be reached for comment.
Dan Flores, a GM spokesman, told the Bangor Daily News that when Allied informed the company it would no longer haul parts and cars for it, GM responded that they had breached the contract.
GM found other haulers to do the work, and is in the process now of transitioning its shipping to those other companies, said Flores.
“There may be a few instances where we have some dealers that are waiting, but when you think about the transition from Allied to the new carriers, it does take some time to get things in place,” said Flores.
“We certainly want to apologize for any inconvenience this transition has caused, but it’s something we were forced to do,” he added.
Published reports said Chrysler, Honda and Toyota had also left Allied as a hauler, and that Toyota dealers also were seeing some delays in getting vehicles. It was unclear Monday if any Toyota dealers in Maine were experiencing problems.
Cremonni, the Fuller customer, said he’s angry that a disagreement with a labor union has spread its economic tendrils across the country to affect him and his “wonderful dealership.”
“I’m dealing with it with patience, I want to stick with the dealer on this thing,” said Cremonni. “I think they’re part of the private sector, trying to pay their bills and everything.”
He said there must be other small dealerships like Fuller that are affected by the corporate goings-on.
“They’re trying to make a living,” he said.