Chrysler dealer survives cuts

Other Western Slope dealerships not so lucky

Hellman Motor Co. Sales Rep Nicole Brienzi looks at the rack of Chrysler promotional material at the dealership in Delta. Hellman lost its franchise with Chrysler.

General Manager Mike Edwards found out Thursday that Grand Junction Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, 2578 Highway 6 & 50, where he works will not be one of the dealerships that Chrysler Corportation will close.

Grand Junction Chrysler Jeep Dodge survived as Chrysler moved Thursday to eliminate about one-quarter of its dealerships in the United States.

Dealerships in Delta, Craig and Durango, however, were told Chrysler would sever its relationship with them, and another in Montrose was in limbo.

“I’m not sure of my status,” said Jeff Pollard of Pollard Brothers Motors Jeep in Montrose. “As far as I know today, I’m the Jeep dealer.”

He had received no notification that his dealership agreement was being terminated, Pollard said. The Montrose dealership was, however, listed among the dealerships to be closed.

Bill Hellman of Hellman Motor Co. in Delta was under no such doubt. Like nearly 800 dealerships across the nation, Hellman received a letter from UPS on Thursday morning telling him of Chrysler’s motion in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York to peel away 789 dealerships by June 9.

Sales are too low, with 50 percent of dealerships accounting for about 90 percent of sales,
Chrysler said. Chrysler has approximately 3,200 dealerships across the nation.

In addition to the letter, Hellman got a call from a Chrysler operations manager.

“It was nice that he called,” Hellman said. “He’s been with Chrysler for a long time. It was a tough phone call for him to make.”

Hellman has sold Chrysler products in Delta since 1981, “back when Lee Iacocca was signing the checks,” he said. He was aware the company was looking at cutting dealerships.

Even though he got the letter, he still has questions, Hellman said.

“Nobody told me exactly why,” he said.

How much the Grand Junction Chrysler Jeep Dodge dealership stands to benefit from the loss of two western Colorado Chrysler dealerships remains to be seen, General Manager Mike Edwards said.

“I’m sure they looked at service area,” as well as the general condition of the dealerships,
Edwards said. It’s also possible Chrysler took into account whether dealerships sold other lines besides Chrysler products, he said.

If company officials were looking at sales figures, then the Grand Junction dealership probably stood up well, Edwards said.

“Things are still going well here,” and his dealership is operating at the same level as Denver dealerships, he said.

Chrysler itself has been optimistic about the future of the company, planning to offer 18 new products to consumers in the next two years, Edwards said.

“There are still a lot of plans coming down the pipeline,” he said.

Chrysler dealerships in the Utah towns of Price and Richfield also remain in business.

Hellman said he was anticipating no layoffs at the Delta dealership, which also offers Ford and Toyota vehicles.

“We’ve developed a good customer base for parts and service,” he said. “We’ve always prided ourselves on customer service. That’s probably the most frustrating part of it.”

Chrysler’s withdrawal of its franchise has another unfortunate side effect, Hellman said.

His dealership sponsors the Dodge Rodeo at the Delta County Fair, he said.

“That’ll be interesting” to sort out, he said.

The closures seem to “target a lot of Mom and Pop stores,” said Arragon Ecord, who owns and rebuilds Chrysler vehicles.

That seems contrary to the middle-class thinking of President Obama, Ecord said. “It seems to be survival of the fittest, survival of the biggest. It’s kind of hard to get out of that rut we’re in.”

Fans of Chrysler, Dodge, Plymouth and related brands who gather in MOPAR clubs need not necessarily fear that the company’s difficulties will translate into additional problems with them getting parts for old vehicles, said Karl Nicholason, a Grand Junction MOPAR fan.

There are more aftermarket options now than years ago, when only the manufacturer supplied parts to popular vehicles such as the Charger and Challenger muscle cars, Nicholason said.

The new cars “are very popular, but they won’t replace an original Challenger or Charger,” he said.

The woes of the auto industry and Chrysler will abate, he said, and things will improve again.

“There might be an electric Charger some day,” Nicholason said. “The name goes really well with electric cars.”


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