On Friday, Chrysler co-President Jim Press told dealers in a closed-circuit broadcast that he could not say when the list of dealerships picked for termination would be released.
Chrysler executives already have told dealers that they will be guided by Chrysler's Project Genesis consolidation plan to combine all three of its brands under one roof wherever possible.
That plan, rolled out to dealers at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in San Francisco in February 2008, was to have taken four or five years. Under pressure from the federal auto task force, the company is speeding up that timetable dramatically.
Bankruptcy laws give U.S. Judge Arthur Gonzalez, who is handling Chrysler's Chapter 11 reorganization in Manhattan, the power to sidestep state franchise laws and other protections, enabling Chrysler to cut dealerships quickly.
When the company launched Project Genesis in 2008, Steven Landry, Chrysler's executive vice president of sales, said dealerships in metro areas would need to double or triple their volume. A dealership selling 450 vehicles a year would have to increase throughput to 1,000 to 1,200, he said at the time.
"Competition has put us in the position where dealerships are seven, eight miles apart," Landry said then. "We want them to be 25 miles apart."
Landry and Press said distances would differ among markets.
Chrysler wants all three brands under one roof so it can eliminate duplicate badge-engineered models, simplify its lineup and create more distinct images for the brands.
Toyota dealerships' sales per store are high in part because Toyota concentrates on metro markets on both coasts. GM is relatively strong in the interior of the United States and has far more dealerships in rural areas.
The wisdom of emulating Toyota took something of a hit Friday, when the Japanese automaker reported a worse quarter even than the struggling GM.
Toyota's global operating loss in the quarter that ended March 31 was $7.02 billion. GM's quarterly operating loss was $5.90 billion.
Sources say GM's dealership strategists are led by Jim Bunnell, executive director of GM's channel support group, and Joe Chrzanowski, GM's executive director of dealer network planning. The group will determine the 1,000 to 1,200 dealerships whose owners will not have their franchise agreements renewed next year.
While GM is trying to match Chevrolet and Toyota stores, one source says GM wants to match its Buick-Pontiac-GMC dealerships with the number of Nissan stores in metro areas.
The United States has 816 stand-alone Nissan dealerships, 835 Buick-Pontiac-GMC stores and 214 Buick-Pontiac-GMC-Cadillac dealerships.
Some executives at both GM and Chrysler are leery of quickly whacking large numbers of dealerships. The automakers' sales and, therefore, revenue will drop when they are desperately short on cash.
Meanwhile, NADA is mobilizing to persuade the task force to back off its drive to cut dealerships.
On Wednesday, May 6, NADA will orchestrate the arrival of about 100 dealers in Washington to lobby Congress.
"Cutting dealers at this time would do absolutely nothing to make either GM or Chrysler more viable," says NADA Chairman John McEleney in an advertisement aimed at President Barack Obama.
"The idea that dealer numbers should be rapidly and drastically reduced apparently comes from Wall Street advisers."
NADA says its representatives will meet with the task force on Thursday, May 14, to discuss the issues.