Editor's note: Earlier versions of this story misspelled the name of dealer lawyer Mark Ornstein.
WASHINGTON -- A rejected Chrysler Group dealership in Florida became the first to win an arbitration case on Tuesday, while two other stores in the same state lost.
The three arbitrations, held simultaneously in Orlando on April 20-23, bring to four the number of decisions that have been handed down. A rejected Chrysler dealer in Ohio lost last week in the first of hundreds of cases due to be heard by mid-July.
Deland Dodge won reinstatement Tuesday, while Chrysler prevailed in arbitration against Bob Taylor Jeep in Naples and Venice Dodge, said the attorney for all three dealerships, Mark Ornstein.
“We're very happy Deland won and very upset the other two lost,” Ornstein, of Orlando, said in an interview. “After reading the arbitrator's decisions, I still don't think I have a clear impression of the exact reasons she ruled for Deland and did not rule for Venice and Bob Taylor.”
The arbitrator, retired Florida state judge Amy Dean, wrote three decisions of about 1½ pages each, Ornstein said.
Attorney on hand
The cases today were the first in which the dealerships were represented by an attorney. Joe Kidd Dodge in Cincinnati represented itself in an April 14 hearing before losing its reinstatement bid last week.
Chrysler expressed disappointment about losing the arbitration to Deland Dodge.
“This decision undermines the federal Bankruptcy Court order that affirmed the rationalization process used to reject this dealership agreement,” the company said in a statement.
The automaker said it would issue a letter of intent to Deland, as required under the federal law that set up the arbitration process for rejected Chrysler and General Motors Co. dealerships.
At the same time, Chrysler praised the decision upholding its terminations of Bob Taylor Jeep and Venice Dodge.
“The company not only employed sound business judgment but is acting in the greater public interest by protecting the dealer network that was created as a result of the bankruptcy proceedings,” its statement said.
All three Florida dealerships had a single Chrysler brand when they were closed as part of the company's bankruptcy almost a year ago.
Under one roof
Chrysler gave franchises to nearby dealerships that now have all four of the automaker's brands under one roof as part of a national strategy called Project Genesis, Ornstein said.
Chrysler has said it is trying to consolidate brands under a single dealership roof to achieve greater efficiency and generate more revenue for investment in showrooms.
Ornstein said he is unsure what role Chrysler's Genesis strategy might have played in the arbitrator's decisions today.
“To date, I still don't know why they were terminated,” he said. “And after four days of hearings, I have yet to see any empirical data from Chrysler that remotely reflects that Genesis works.”
In the Joe Kidd Dodge decision last week, the arbitrator affirmed the Genesis strategy, said Tom James, general manager of the closed store.
A total of 678 arbitrations are due to be held by July 14, the American Arbitration Association said last week.