By WADE DANIELS

Staff Reporter

Jim Lynch is making major changes at General Motors Corp. dealerships in the San Fernando Valley, where he is charged with reversing a slump that has turned the Valley into one of GM's poorest-selling markets in the nation.

The Detroit carmaker is depending on Lynch and a few colleagues from Rydell Co., a big owner of successful dealerships in the Midwest, to lead its largest effort ever to turn around a poorly performing market.

In the Valley, GM has a market share of about 13 percent, compared with 20 percent in California and more than 30 percent nationwide, said GM spokeswoman Anne Marie Sylvester. General Motors wants to raise the number of cars sold in the Valley to about 11,000 a year from the current 6,000.

In pursuit of that, GM has put Lynch in charge of day-to-day management responsibilities for eight of the 11 Valley dealerships GM has bought in the past two years. The company plans to consolidate them into a handful of superstores offering most or all of GM's six brands, rather than the usual two or three.

But first things first. Before the consolidation begins, Lynch has some work to do at the existing dealerships.

"What I'm doing right now is making these lots perform at their maximum," said Lynch, who was previously executive general manager of Rydell Chevrolet in Grand Forks, N.D. (one of 30 Midwest dealerships Rydell Co. owns or manages). "There are a few fundamental changes in the way business will be done here, immediately."

Since arriving in the Valley in May, his first moves have included extending the hours for automotive service to evenings and weekends and changing the sales commission structure to head off efforts by salespeople to push expensive cars or extras on customers who don't need or really want them.

Under the new system, salespeople are paid a base salary and a flat rate for each car sold, instead of a percentage of the sale amount. On top of that, the sales force is given a bonus based on the dealership's overall sales volume.

"A sales associate is paid the same whether they sell a $45,000 Corvette or a $4,500 used car," said Lynch, who explained that the system has been implemented successfully at Rydell dealerships in the Midwest. "We want salespeople to have an ego and to sell, but too much is too much."

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