GM dealer Hooman Nissani was incensed when a Los Angeles Times auto columnist took shots at the new Pontiac G6. So when General Motors Corp. announced later that day it was pulling its advertising, he decided to do the same thing for his Hooman Pontiac GMC Buick Inc. dealership in Culver City.

Another GM dealer, John Symes, was similarly peeved at the column, but decided to keep shelling out $20,000 a month in Times advertising, figuring to do otherwise would cost sales at his Symes Cadillac-Saab-Land Rover dealership in Pasadena.

The reaction by Nissani and Symes highlight the Times' challenge in trying to keep and win back GM dealers after the automaker dropped its advertising in the newspaper over what it said was inaccurate coverage. The decision includes ads for the General Motors' Buick, Chevrolet and Cadillac divisions, as well as all corporate advertising, but dealers are free to make their own ad decisions. Collectively, they spend more money on advertising than GM's corporate offices in Detroit.

Some dealers, like Nissani, have canceled their ads out of loyalty to GM or because of their own complaints about the Times' coverage of the industry. Others, like Symes, are still running ads for competitive reasons even as they chafe at what they see as unfavorable news coverage.

The Times refuses to say how many dealers have withdrawn their ads.

Representatives of the newspaper, which has struggled with declines in most advertising categories, also refused to say whether they are taking any steps to retain or recapture dealers upset about coverage. "We really don't discuss our relationship with any advertisers," said spokesman David Garcia.

Some advertisers, however, are willing to discuss their strained relationship with the newspaper, a unit of Chicago-based Tribune Co.

"We frequently differ with the editorial coverage in the Los Angeles Times and are continually frustrated with the imbalance of the Los Angeles Times and often times its inaccuracy," said Symes, who sits on the board of the National Automobile Dealers Association. "But when it comes time to do your advertising and your business plan, most dealers don't let that bother them."

'Inaccuracies and mischaracterizations'
Some car dealers have long grumbled over what they see as the Times' bias in favor of imported cars as well as articles that they claim suggests a link between Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's decision to cut vehicle license fees and his support from car dealers.


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