Historic City News met with Atlantic Dodge-Chrysler-JEEP General Manager Joe Webb to get his feelings about yesterday’s announcement that listed 35 Chrysler dealerships in Florida that will either have to close within the next couple of months or operate independently.
“We were a little anxious” admitted Webb who told us that this year’s sales were certainly off from last year’s sales. Webb went on to say that they found out the status of their dealership the same way and at the same time everyone else did. “We weren’t really worried; we carry all of the Chrysler brands exclusively and are a Five Star dealer”.
Webb felt that dealers in the metro markets like Miami, Orlando and Jacksonville were most at risk for being cut because there were too many dealerships. He agrees that Chrysler’s strategy to thin out those overcrowded markets will help everyone.
When asked about the possibilities of a relationship with Fiat, Webb explained that Fiat will most likely begin assembling vehicles in America – taking advantage of some of the recently closed Chrysler assembly plants. Webb expects that those vehicles will carry one of the Chrysler badges — and not necessarily be branded “Fiat”.
GM dropped its Oldsmobile brand in 2004. We asked Webb about Chrysler’s decision in 2001 to drop the Plymouth brand. When asked if he thought is was possible that the new Chrysler, under Fiat, might axe one of its remaining brands as it emerges from bankruptcy, Webb said “anything’s possible” although he told us that he didn’t see that happening immediately.
We also asked about the relationship with GMAC – the financial services arm of General Motors. Webb says he feels good about the way things are working out between them. GMAC is not currently offering consumers the option to lease their Chrysler products, however, Chrysler Financial, Chrysler’s previous captive finance company, had already discontinued vehicle leasing.
“GMAC will provide the dealership with our floor plan” a term that refers to the line of credit used by automobile dealers to pay for the vehicles offered for sale on their lots. Webb says that he had recently met with the GMAC representative and that he feels good about the relationship. “They are already buying contracts from us” Webb told us.
Atlantic has always offered alternative financing options through local lenders like VyStar Credit Union and Wells Fargo Bank, a practice that Webb expects will continue.
The Lowe families, including Philip Lowe and son Mike Lowe, have owned the local Chrysler dealership for over 34 years.
Today General Motors dealers get their turn to be nervous. While Chrysler publicly identified its 789 dealerships slated for closure as part of its bankruptcy filing, GM is not in bankruptcy — at least not yet — and GM does not plan to release a list of dealerships being closed. Around 1,100 GM dealers are expected to be receiving letters from that automaker informing them that the company does not plan to renew their contracts that expire in October, 2010.
Historic City News staff photograph