Jack’s back -- to sell Chryslers and help out

Donna Harris covers automotive retailing Automotive News
Jack Fitzgerald, who lost his bid to restore his four Maryland Chrysler stores this summer, is back selling Chrysler vehicles in Maryland. He’s also back helping a fellow dealer.

Fitzgerald was a leader in a fight by rejected dealers to keep their franchises after the Chrysler and GM bankruptcies. He lost his Chrysler arbitration cases in Maryland but won his Chrysler battle in Florida. He also reached settlements with GM to keep two dealerships slated to be closed.

This week, Fitzgerald bought a majority stake in Park Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep in Lexington Park, Md. Seller Jerry Dillard, a minority-dealer leader, will retain part-ownership in the store and continue as the operator.

On its face, this looks like a normal partnership, but it’s actually a rescue. Fitzgerald said Dillard has been a good operator for many years and only ran into trouble when he lost his inventory financing last year. Many lenders were unwilling to provide floorplan financing for Chrysler dealers during such uncertain times.

Fitzgerald told me he and Dillard had been friends a long time, and an acquisition was the only way he could help Dillard keep the store. The credit crisis and Chrysler bankruptcy had taken too much of a toll.

So Fitzgerald is at it again -- selling Chrysler and helping out when he can.