CHATTANOOGA -- The turmoil is finally subsiding in the Chattanooga market four years after the national economic crisis and the bankruptcy of General Motors.
But getting the car business back in order in this mountainous market of 350,000 people has been a game of musical chairs.
The former Cadillac dealer is now a Subaru dealer. A Buick dealer has become a Chevrolet dealer. The Saturn dealer is now the Chevrolet and Cadillac dealer. The former Cadillac dealer's former Infiniti franchise is now owned by the Jaguar-Porsche dealer.
Buildings have changed hands. Car inventories have been shuttled from one location to another. And as the dust settles from the auto industry's rough passage, Chattanooga's car dealers have embraced a new order and moved on.
"It's been an interesting period to live through," says local dealer Tim Kelly. "General Motors sort of dumped out the box here, but I think we've gotten it all sorted out again now."
Kelly owns various automotive and power sports interests in Chattanooga, including the market's Subaru and Mitsubishi dealerships. Prior to his termination in the 2009 GM bankruptcy, his family had been Cadillac dealers in the market since 1939.
"You can imagine, it was very traumatic to lose the family business," he says. "A car franchise is a member of the family. You grow up with it.
"But I'm over it. Subaru is a wonderful franchise to be part of."
Despite the upheaval, GM's number of franchise points in the market remains the same, minus those of its discontinued brands. But the retail market shares for Chevrolet, GMC and Cadillac were lower in first quarter of 2013 than they were five years earlier, before the crisis began, according to registration data from Polk (see chart). Buick's share is slightly higher now than it was in first quarter of 2008.