Goodbye Chrysler, we're going it alone

Almost a week has passed since our involuntary termination of the Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge franchises in our Hartsville, S.C., dealership.

When we initially found out about the termination, we (including all employees of the dealership), as a team, voted to move forward without them and continue operations as a non-franchised store.

When looking at profitability, we knew if we just kept on track and removed the variable expenses of the new car franchises at this location, we would finish our year more profitable. This still doesn’t take away from the sting of how it all took place.

Nonetheless, we’ve committed to survive through it all. Today, we note that last week ended up actually being one of our best. Sales had a strong finish along with service and parts. Our customer base is strong and they seem committed to us for the service we have provided.

For General Motors and our Lake City, S.C., facility it starts all over again this week.

I received a letter from GM the following day after my Chrysler letter last month.

The difference: I did what many have not.

I recognized a concern too for the franchise’s value in the Lake City market in such depressed economic times. Therefore, I submitted a voluntary termination of my Chevrolet, Buick, Pontiac and GMC franchises. GM is in the rebuilding process and I truly believe they will emerge a stronger, more competitive brand.

But in this particular market, the brand just didn’t fit in today’s world. My effective termination date will be this Friday, June 19th. The biggest benefit from my voluntary termination, which was accepted before the bankruptcy filing on June 1st, is that I will have buy-back assistance from GM on inventory, to include parts and special tools.

As part of the “wind-down” process they’ve recently initiated after the bankruptcy filing, it’s a flat cash payout in assistance with no buy-back options. Though not as strong in my opinion, I applaud GM’s efforts to minimize the financial impact on the other dealers.

Chrysler dealers got nothing.

I’ll continue to keep you posted this week as we implement our own “wind-down” process for the GM dealership. However one important lesson that was reiterated to me through this all has been a better understanding of our customers.

As you see, our customers understand for the most part the value of local ownership. They buy from us because they know us. Most importantly, they return to us after the sale for service because they too know that we will take care of their needs to the best of our ability. This is the true value in the automotive business. I’m honestly looking forward to what the second half of the year brings us.

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