Sad day for local Chrysler dealerships

June 9, 2009 11:20:29 PM PDT
It is the end of the road for hundreds of Chrysler dealerships across the country, including some in the Bay Area. Chrysler is cutting ties with many of its franchises as part of the company's restructuring plan. Long-time dealers feel betrayed.

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The dealerships put up a good fight, hoping last-ditch arguments in court would at least delay having to shut down. That did not happen, making Tuesday officially the last day for hundreds of Chrysler franchises.

It's been a sad day at Chrysler dealerships across the country. Burlingame Chrysler Jeep Dodge is one of the 789 dealerships ordered to shut down.

"It's really not fair because we didn't do anything wrong with them, all the cars, we paid for the cars, everything, we paid for them. Even the brochures that we give to the customers," said Roland Mory of Burlingame Chrysler Jeep Dodge.

A few miles south on Highway 101, Boardwalk Chrysler Jeep will also no longer be operating as a Chrysler franchise.

"It's sort of like, what was it, the 1980 Olympics, when we boycotted the Olympics and all the Olympic athletes were like, 'We didn't do anything wrong? Why we are we being left out of the games? We would like to continue to play," Same thing here. The dealership was profitable. We were one of the No. 1 volume stores," said Hunter Elkins of Boardwalk Chrysler Jeep.

For Chrysler customers on the Peninsula, it means having to drive to the North or South Bay for warranty service -- something that is not sitting well with prospective buyers.

"I'm looking at if they're cheaper, but what if they close and my car breaks down? Where am I going to go?" said prospective buyer Lupe Garcia.

However, Chrysler stands by its decision. It says having too many dealers takes business away from one another, and its president told Congress the unprofitable ones ended up costing the company $1.5 billion last year.

"Unprofitable dealers can't afford to invest in advertising, facilities, people, training or a high level of customer satisfaction," said James Press, president of Chrysler LLC.

Chrysler is now focusing on its plan to partner with Italy's Fiat. The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for the sale late Tuesday.

Boardwalk Chrysler Jeep is holding out hope a Fiat-owned Chrysler will mean opportunities down the road.

"I believe that Chrysler is going to say, 'Wait a minute, we've got some new product from Fiat coming along which will probably be two years down the line... and we don't have a dealership point anywhere on the Peninsula of one of the wealthiest markets in America? Hold on a minute, maybe we were rash on our bankruptcy, let's give these guys a call,'" said Elkins.

The government-approved Chrysler/Fiat deal is expected to be completed by Wednesday morning, when the government wires money to finance the sale.

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