Stanley Balzekas Jr. had 100 new Chrysler and Jeep vehicles when Chrysler LLC informed him that his 83-year-old store in southwest Chicago would no longer be a Chrysler franchise.
But by Monday, his penultimate day with the automaker, Balzekas was down to two vehicles.
That surprises the 84-year-old dealer, who last month told Automotive News he was considering a half-off sale for his vehicles, since he sometimes only sold a couple each month in his store.
I didnt realize that we had so many people, he said, noting his South Archer Avenue store is in a low-income neighborhood. But the sale brought back customers who visited the store when it and the neighborhood were seeing better days, he said.
We had one fellow here who said he bought his first Chrysler here in 1940, Balzekas said. He didnt even know how to drive it, and my dad taught him how.
Loyal customers returned to lift sales at closing Chrysler stores, said dealers who spoke with Automotive News. On May 14, 789 Chrysler stores found out the bankrupt automaker planned to cancel their franchise agreements when it sold its assets to a company run by Italys Fiat S.p.A. U.S. Bankruptcy Court held hearings last week on the dealer rejections and will continue those today -- the last day for those dealerships to sell Chryslers, according to the automakers plans.
Chrysler's sale to Fiat hit a speed bump Monday as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stayed a bankruptcy judge's orders last week allowing the sale "pending further order" by her or by the Supreme Court. It's not clear how long the delay will last, but it isnt expected to affect the closing of the 789 dealerships.
David Hyatt, a spokesman for the National Automobile Dealers Association, said June 9 will be remembered.
"Weve dubbed it Black Tuesday because its such a tragic series of events, because this is a particularly brutal mass dealer cut thats unprecedented."
Last months U.S. seasonally adjusted annual sales rate reached 9.9 million light vehicles, its highest this year. Analysts attributed some of the lift from Aprils 9.5-million level to same-stores sales increases at terminating Chrysler stores.
Even though the automakers sales fell 46.9 percent from May 2008, most of its a fleet story, said Jeff Schuster, executive director of forecasting for market research firm J.D. Power and Associates. Chrysler said its sales to fleets plunged 90 percent because its plants have been shut in bankruptcy. Its retail sales fell 30 percent.
Those sales helped the automaker reduce its inventory to an 86-day supply on June 1, from 114 days worth on May 1.
Loyal customers helped dealer Richard Mealey sell about 200 of the more than 320 new Chryslers and Jeeps he had on his suburban Detroit lot when he got word from Chrysler. Thats about twice what he sold in April. He has taken considerable losses on the vehicles hes sold since May 14 and sold some for net-net-net-net during a five-day sale last week, he said.
The leftovers will go today to a nearby dealer. Mealey is taking the same loss on those vehicles as he would if he had agreed to let Chrysler try to redistribute them, but he doesnt have to pay the other dealer the $350 handling fee the manufacturer is charging the rejected dealers to process each vehicle.
Although Mealey and Balzekas were taking losses on some of their cars, they say they didnt accept offers to pay half the sticker price for a new vehicle. Neither did Sam Nay, who owns Waco Dodge Sales Inc. in Texas.
Our standard answer is that, Ah, man, we just sold that car, Nay said. We play them pretty bad because, I mean, nobodys going to take that.
Bradford Wernle contributed to this report.