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General Motors has partnered with Northwood University to offer bachelor's and master's degrees tailored for GM dealership employees.
Northwood will offer a 30-month executive MBA program that mixes in GM-specific case studies and projects.
A four-year bachelor's of business administration in automotive marketing and management will mirror Northwood's normal program, but course work will be offered mostly online to make it easier for full-time GM dealership employees. Students enrolled in the bachelor's program can earn credit for previous GM training.
A third offering, the GM/Northwood University Advanced Leadership continuing-education program, will include a project specific to the student's Chevrolet, Cadillac or Buick-GMC dealership.
The Advanced Leadership and bachelor's programs are to begin in October. The MBA program is to start in January.
The programs will offer dealers a recruitment tool to attract employees seeking careers in automotive retailing while helping GM improve its customer service, says Chris Bower, a GM senior manager who oversees dealer-training programs.
"We want to provide learning opportunities that build their professional skills so they can not only deliver great customer experience, but also great business results for their dealership," Bower says.
The move marks another step by GM to offer customers a more polished experience at GM dealerships. For example, GM has hired a training arm of Walt Disney Co. to train its 3,000 Chevrolet dealers on providing better customer service, including visits to Disney theme parks for a behind-the-scenes look at the company's methods.
"Customer experience has been a major focus," Bower said. During the Advanced Leadership program, for example, "The assignment might become: 'Identify an opportunity in your department that you can implement that would improve the customer experience.'"
The GM partnership marks the first time that Northwood has joined with an automaker to tailor the curriculum of a bachelor's or master's program, says Timothy Nash, the university's vice president of strategic and corporate alliances.
Guest lecturers could include industry leaders and could be from GM as well as rival automakers and dealers.
The cost of the executive MBA will be $39,760, which includes tuition, course materials, lodging and some meals.
The normal cost for the four-year bachelor program is around $50,000, but would be less for students who qualify for credits based on their career training or transfer credits.
The Advanced Leadership program consists of two eight-week courses with tuition of $1,100 per course.
Northwood, a private university with main campuses in Michigan, Florida and Texas, specializes in managerial and entrepreneurial programs. It claims to offer the nation's only bachelor's degree in automotive marketing and management.