DETROIT — When Chrysler LLC unveiled its Project Genesis consolidation plan for Detroit area dealers this summer, Bob Shuman noticed there was no circle on the map at the tiny suburb of Walled Lake, Mich.
Walled Lake, population 6,700, is the home of his Shuman Chrysler-Jeep store. Shuman, 46, wasn't fazed when he learned that his store does not fit into the carmaker's retail plans in Detroit.
Chrysler is in the midst of Project Genesis, a five-year plan to reduce the company's dealer count by combining its Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge brands under one rooftop wherever possible. But Shuman doesn't have a Dodge store, and he says there's no prospect of his getting one.
Shuman, a cheerful spark plug of a man who practiced law for 11 years before taking over the family dealership, says he has always enjoyed cordial relations with the factory. But he thinks Chrysler is getting something wrong with its consolidation plan, which requires dealers combining all three brands to invest big money in stores.
Shuman says he'll survive without Dodge, advertising his store as a no-frills operation that offers better prices than the expensive "Taj Mahal" stores built by other dealers.
Says Shuman: "How are these guys who have bought these big stores going to survive the difficult times? It's guys with low-overhead structures who are going to survive."
When Chrysler announced the plan in February, the company told dealers it would like to see most stores in metro areas consolidated by 2012.
Chrysler co-President Jim Press says the automaker realizes not every dealer can arrange a Genesis deal. But he has repeatedly said Chrysler is trimming redundant products from its brands.
"Based on our product portfolio," Press warns, "if you don't have Genesis, you won't have the full range of Chrysler products."
Shuman, whose family has had a dealership in Walled Lake since 1954, has paid off his store's mortgage and owns his land. When his showroom needed remodeling a couple of years ago, Shuman dipped into savings for the $1 million project.