If all goes according to Chryslers plan, Ray Cottrell will lose his Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge franchise in June. But because of the way local TV stations played the story, Cottrell says he fears customers will think his Ford-Mercury outlet is closing, too.
Cottrell sells all five brands at his store in Brandenburg, Ky. His companys official name is Rays Ford-Mercury Inc., and the Chrysler LLC operation does business as Rays Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge. Chrysler included both names in its bankruptcy court filing listing the 789 dealerships it intends to close June 9 as part of its efforts to survive through an alliance with Italian automaker Fiat S.p.A.
But when local media outlets saw the list, they used the official corporate name in broadcasting the news.
Television stations put it out that Rays Ford-Mercury was being terminated, Cottrell said. The story will be on the news at five oclock today. Thats really going to hurt me.
Cottrell, 76, found out his store was on the list from news outlets. His letter, which Chrysler tried to deliver to dealers by 10 a.m. today via United Parcel Service, did not arrive until 12:15 p.m. He said a Chrysler official later called to apologize.
Cottrell said he didnt expect his store to be on the list. His store had seen profits increase about $110,000 so far this year, and he had remodeled it two years ago to Chryslers specifications. His customer service rating was one of the highest in the region, he said, and he had met Chryslers revised unit sales goal after the economy soured.
Steven Landry, Chrysler's executive vice president of sales, said the company used a "data-driven matrix" to make the decisions. The dealers targeted for closing account for 14 percent of Chrysler's U.S. sales volume, he said in a statement.
Cottrell said he thinks he was targeted because his rural Kentucky outlet sits between two other Chrysler dealerships, each about 25 miles away. Without his store, those dealerships will be 50 miles apart.
"Thats the only criteria I think they used in my case, he said. They say doing away with dealerships, other dealers are going to sell more cars. I dont believe that."
Cottrell said hell lose about $500,000 from eliminating the Chrysler brands. He said he thinks hell have to lay off about half of his 51 employees, some who started working for him just a few years after he started selling Chrysler brands in 1983.