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Paris and remembering the pain, the agony and the bloodshed

PARIS -- Two years ago, during the Paris auto show, the rumbles of what would become a widespread global economic crisis first began.

The crash – triggered by the collapse of Wall Street giant Lehman Brothers -- had an immediate domino effect on automakers. Automotive sales nosedived, revenues plunged, and management went into crisis mode – cutting jobs, idling plants, scrapping and delaying product programs.

It led to the ultimate termination of thousands of General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group dealerships as those companies went through federal bankruptcy court.

At the 2010 Paris auto show, memories of the crash are both distant and yet not forgotten. Mention to any executive that it was two years ago in Paris when ... and they suddenly finish your sentence: “the crash began.” While most feel the industry has learned valuable lessons and survival skills, they also know nothing is for certain or resolved.

But there are many who will never forget the last Paris show – those dealers who lost family businesses during the crash when GM and Chrysler pulled the plug on them.

And at the end of the day, was it worth it? Did sales per store increase for those dealerships that survived?

AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson says survivors got an initial boost in per store service, but it's since leveled off.

Says Jackson: “What finally happened wasn't worth the pain, the agony and the bloodshed.” c

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