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Some dealers to sell all three Chrysler brands

The Chrysler group will allow key dealers in fast-growing and metropolitan areas to sell all three brands — Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep — in the same location, departing with its long tradition of keeping the volume brands separated.

The deal has one major string attached: Dealerships that combine the three brands must remove non-Chrysler group brands from the location.

The metropolitan superstores would feature new showrooms and signs in new or renovated facilities. Only the Chrysler group's best dealers, those dubbed Five Star franchises, would be able to sell all three brands. These stores could open as early as year-end.

The Chrysler group is reversing its metropolitan dealership policy because 34.6 percent of its 4,334 dealerships have a competing franchise. The maker said its dual dealerships sell 460,000 competing vehicles annually from the same locations as their Chrysler/Jeep or Dodge franchises.

The dual franchises also sell 32 percent fewer Chrysler group vehicles annually than exclusive Chrysler/Jeep or Dodge dealerships do, a spokesman said.

By offering these dealers a Dodge or Chrysler/Jeep franchise, the maker hopes to recapture some of the sales lost by removing the competing brands, said a spokesman.

Under the plan, dealers in a metropolitan area who sell all three Chrysler group brands could combine operations. Or dealers could sell their operations to a dealer who would combine them. "These dealerships would have to meet the criteria of exclusivity and have the best location and facility," the spokesman said. "It has to make good business sense and has to meet all the criteria we laid out for them.

"We do not have any goals or objectives. We will not offer any financial assistance. We will not strong-arm anyone."

The Chrysler group has kept its Dodge and Chrysler dealerships separated fearing cannibalization of sales, especially in products that share platforms and bodies such as the minivans and some passenger cars. But with the demise of the Plymouth brand, the overlap is smaller, a spokesman said.

You can reach Diana T. Kurylko at dkurylko@autonews.com

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