DETROIT -- Fiat Chrysler has taken the unusual step of warning some of its most enthusiastic customers -- about some of its dealers.
At issue is outsized consumer demand for the 2015 Dodge Charger and Challenger SRT Hellcats and dealer practices that the company says are “unscrupulous” and perhaps illegal.
Gualberto Ranieri, FCA’s senior vice president for communications, says that a “handful of dealers” have accepted large numbers of orders for the 707-hp Dodges “without regard to available supply and without advising their customers that orders may not be filled, if at all, for many months or longer. We believe such a practice may constitute a breach of the Dealer’s Sales and Service Agreement with FCA US LLC and a violation of other applicable laws.”
“Accordingly, we wanted our customers to hear directly from us how we are allocating Hellcat vehicles and we hope that you will bear with us as we, in conjunction with our supply base, continue to balance the supply and overwhelming demand,” Ranieri wrote late Friday on Fiat Chrysler's Objects in the Mirror blog. Ranieri's piece describes the unique way that Dodge is allocating Hellcat Challengers and Chargers to its dealers.
As Automotive News first reported, the allocation method is based on total Dodge sales and how long previous Hellcats have remained in inventory. The effect is to indirectly penalize dealers who might hold the wildly popular cars for themselves or place a large market adjustment on the sticker, slowing their sales to consumers.
Ranieri says that the allocation system “can be an even greater opportunity for unscrupulous businesses or individuals to take advantage of customers.” He urges consumers to ask pointed questions of their dealer before placing a Hellcat order, including whether a deposit is required and whether the deposit is refundable, and to “consult your state law governing the vehicle orders and return of deposits.”
Jim Arrigo, the current chairman of the National FCA Dealer Council, said that “any time you try to allocate through a shortage, it’s going to be difficult.” However, Arrigo said that an automaker’s allocation system is what it is, and dealers have to learn to live within it.
Arrigo said he has heard of some dealers taking deposits on Hellcats “just so that customer can’t go down the road and order the car from a competitor. I think that’s wrong. For somebody today to take 200 deposits or even 30 orders for that car, when they know that they’re not going to get that many, that’s just wrong.”
Arrigo, who owns five FCA dealerships in south Florida, said both the automaker and the dealers have to act with integrity through this process.
“This one car’s not going to make or break a dealer,” Arrigo said. “And to treat this vehicle without some kind of integrity, you have to ask yourself as a dealer if you want to go down that road.”
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.