Chris Maneotis, co-owner of Victory Motors of Craig, stands next to a new Jeep Wrangler, delivered to his lot Thursday. Victory acquired the Jeep brand after Chrysler took it away from Cook Chevrolet earlier this week.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Chris Maneotis, co-owner of Victory Motors of Craig, stands next to a new Jeep Wrangler, delivered to his lot Thursday. Victory acquired the Jeep brand after Chrysler took it away from Cook Chevrolet earlier this week.

Cook loses Jeep line; Victory becomes Craig's only Chrysler dealer

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Steve Maneotis, co-owner of Victory Motors in Craig, answers five questions about his business' recent acquisition of Jeep, and the direction of the local and national auto industry.

Steve Maneotis, co-owner of Victory Motors in Craig, answers five questions about his business' recent acquisition of Jeep, and the direction of the local and national auto industry.

— There are no closed or closing car dealers in town, local dealership owners said.

But - mirroring the national landscape - the local auto industry is changing.

For instance, with a phone call this week, Scott Cook, owner of Cook Chevrolet, learned his Jeep franchise was gone for good.

Cook Chevrolet had sold Jeeps since before Chrysler bought the company, but that did not change the local dealership's fate.

After Tuesday, when the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for Chrysler's bankruptcy to go ahead as planned, the American auto giant made good on its talk this spring to take Jeep away from Cook Chevrolet.

Chrysler originally sent a letter to Cook in May announcing its plans. His response yesterday to the official news was similar to what he said a month ago: The loss will have an impact, but it won't be catastrophic.

"In small dealerships, every franchise is important to us, but we'll go on and see if we can offset it with other things," he said. "There's nothing we can do to change what's gone on."

Still, Cook added, his business was not hurt as badly as some.

"Other dealers, who only had one franchise, lost their only one," he said. "I can't feel too sorry for myself when that stuff is happening to other people."

Cook has no answers for what those dealers can do now. He said manufacturers probably wouldn't be excited to add a dealership in a rural area right now, so they may have to survive on used car sales and service work.

Although Jeep left Cook Chevrolet, it was not without a local home for long.

Victory Motors of Craig, which also carries the Chrysler brand and its Dodge subsidiary, has taken on the franchise and will honor all Jeep warranties.

Chris Maneotis, a Victory co-owner, said he's glad to have the Jeep franchise.

He said it will help soften the blow when General Motors pulls its Buick and GMC lines from Victory and gives them over to Cook, which already has a flagship GM franchise in Chevrolet.

"I'm positive GM is going away," Maneotis said, adding he expects it will happen between Jan. 1 and October 2010.

Both Maneotis and Cook said they have no plans to downsize their staff because of the franchises' reshuffling.

They also said they expect Chrysler and GM, which have declared bankruptcy and received billions of dollars in bailout funds from the federal government, to be stronger companies by this time next year.

Maneotis added the franchise switch could help him in the long run.

"It's going to streamline me," he said. "I'll only be dealing with one manufacturer. It'll cut my expenses in half; it'll cut my training in half.

"I'll tell you what's really hurting, is this perception out there that everybody thinks we're closed. That's the killer."

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