MONTROSE – Fritz Flower of Flower Motor Company is just as worried as any Chrysler dealer about Chrysler’s recent bankruptcy, but like the rest, he just has to wait and see what will happen.
Flower said he was optimistic after a conference call last week from the national office about what lies ahead.
“I think it will be a positive thing,” he said. “It will help them renegotiate contracts with the unions and be able to be a more profitable and viable company.”
The one-way phone call to Chrysler dealers didn’t provide a lot of details about the bankruptcy plan, Flower said, but more of an outline “that it’s business as usual and Chrysler will emerge as a stronger company.”
Still, it’s worrisome to dealers, he said, especially those in rural areas.
Chrysler filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last week and idled its plants.
“Someone asked Bob Nardelli, the CEO of Chrysler, ‘Do you think we can get the transition done in 60 days?’ He indicated yes, but there’s a lot of skepticism,” Flower said.
Flower said he’s also aware that some dealerships face closure and the ones with the best chances of survival are in urban areas.
“Closing the dealership is on the back of everybody’s minds, because they said they want to eliminate a large number of dealers, but we don’t know at this point,” he said. “I would think they would eliminate the dealers that are out of trust with Chrysler Financial.”
Chrysler Financial offers automotive financial products and services, and is now required to temporarily suspend dealer wholesale financing because of the bankruptcy filing.
Flower said his sister-in-law owns a couple of dealerships in Montana, including a General Motors outlet, and she said GM is targeting rural dealers first.
Another issue for Chrysler is having their three brands – Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep – preferably “all under one roof,” Flower said.
“We just have Dodge and Chrysler and do not have Jeep,” he said. “That’s what they’re trying to target and there’s a lot of questions, but we have a good company and Rich Pollard has a good company.”
Pollard, owner of Pollard Brothers Jeep in Montrose, said he also tuned in to the nationwide phone conference and feels positive about the future.
“We’re in uncharted waters right now, and as far as we’re concerned, we’ll keep giving business as usual and giving great deals,” he said.
Like other dealers, Flower was informed when Chrysler had to end its own financing, but he said he’s already gotten information from General Motors Acceptance Corp. about handling financing for his dealership.
Flower said sales are up locally over last year, even though, according to the Associated Press, U.S. auto sales overall fell 34 percent in April over last year, with Chrysler’s sales down 48 percent, the lowest in the industry.
But that was then, Flower said, and regardless of what happens in the future, now’s a great time to get a good buy.
“If you’re in the market, the deals are phenomenal,” he said.
Bill Hellman, of Hellman Motor Company in Delta, remained optimistic about Chrysler’s situation, even with the halt in production.
“As dealers, we are pretty good at our locating service between dealers,” he said. “Of course, that will change as we go along, but this is one way to get inventory levels down.”
That means good rebates and cash incentives “you typically don’t see from Chrysler,” he said.
As the bankruptcy plan emerges in the coming weeks, Hellman said everyone should “calm down” after the initial filing as they wait to see how the proposed merger with Fiat and other variables plays out.
“It all depends on how quickly they proceed, how quickly the creditors give concessions and how quickly the UAW (United Auto Workers) give concessions,” he said. “But if you need something, it’s really a great time to buy.”