DETROIT -- Chrysler LLC dealers who fear they will lose their franchises as a result of the automakers consolidation plan have formed a committee and have hired lawyers to represent their interests.
The Committee of Chrysler Affected Dealers, in cooperation with the National Automobile Dealers Association, addressed dealers in an informational teleconference today. The dealers will be represented in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York by the Cincinnati law firm Squire, Sanders & Dempsey.
On the conference call today, attorney Stephen Lerner urged dealers who fear they wont continue with the new Chrysler to sign up with the committee and send in $4,000 by the end of the day Thursday. That is the day Chrysler will file a preliminary list of dealers whose franchises will be assumed by the new, post-bankruptcy Chrysler. The committee was formed to represent the interests of those who will not be on that list.
Lerner said the firm has already requested a meeting with President Barack Obamas automotive task force and the Chrysler creditors committee.
We are confident of the ability of the committee to produce benefits for dealers, he said in urging dealers to contribute $4,000 per rooftop. There will be extremely well-financed, parties on the other side of the negotiating table.
Squire, Sanders & Porter has ample experience in big bankruptcy cases, including representing the creditors committee in the Enron Corp. bankruptcy, Lerner told dealers.
Chryslers National Dealer Council already had retained the Washington law firm Arnold & Porter to represent all 3,188 dealers in the automakers bankruptcy case. the final list wont be determined until June, after the new company, managed by Italian carmaker Fiat S.p.A., emerges from bankruptcy, according to a memo sent to dealers by NADA last week.
A Chrysler official said there is still no approved list of dealers and declined further comment. The hearing to close the Fiat transaction is scheduled for May 27.
Vermont dealer Wade Walker said the committee was formed to represent the interests of dealers who wont have a place in Chryslers future. Walker said he is certain he wont be on the list because he has only a Jeep franchise.
Weve got to get dealers involved, said Walker, owner of Walker Motors Inc., a Jeep and Ford dealership in Montpelier, and a member of the committee. The have-nots will need more protection. Theyre going to lose their franchises. Theyre going to lose their dealerships. Theyre possibly going to lose everything they have.
The rush to get rid of dealerships is going to ruin lives across the country, he said.