Like many other dumped Chrysler dealers, Fortinberry hopes he eventually will get another new-vehicle franchise. But he can't sit around and wait for someone to call. Rent checks are coming due. Employees must be paid. He's working out a business plan now that his main meal ticket has been yanked.
Last week, on a quiet morning at Fortinberry's property, large Chrysler and Jeep signs still hung outside. Temporary NAPA banners stood on the lawn and in the shop. Used vehicles stood out front, where new Chryslers and Jeeps once had been.
On July 16, about a dozen former Detroit-area Chrysler dealers met with NAPA. The Detroit dealers are forming an advertising association to pool money for local ad buys.
They're also discussing some new business concepts including an idea that Fortinberry has for a "NAPA Super Center" that would combine NAPA's traditional services with things that auto dealers offer, including pleasant waiting rooms, free shuttle service and loaners.
NAPA officials are cautious. They say they are not planning any new concepts at the moment and believe most disenfranchised dealers easily could become NAPA AutoCare Centers. NAPA now has nearly 13,000 such centers, and also operates about 6,000 NAPA Auto Parts Stores.
NAPA says it is not planning to develop the Super Center concept. "Former dealerships would fit into current NAPA networks or programs," said Bret Robyck, vice president of wholesale markets for NAPA. "This is for the disenfranchised Chrysler store who wants to do more than 50 percent of his business in service."
Bill Hahn Jr., owner of Village Automotive — formerly Village Chrysler-Jeep — in the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak, Mich., has signed with NAPA. He says the parts chain "looks at this as a white sheet of paper. Collectively we're coming up with whatever's best for them and us. It was natural evolution. On June 9, Chrysler forced our hand. You've got all these dealerships throughout the country. This is what we do. We sell and service cars."
With NAPA service, Hahn says he can offer "everything a customer is used to in dealership but they can get it 20 to 25 percent cheaper than what a dealership is charging."
NAPA's Susor says NAPA gets many of its parts from the same suppliers who make them for the automakers.