Cook likely to lose Jeep franchise

Victory Motors to keep Chrysler, Dodge

Advertisement

Irene Kitzman, a partner with Victory Motors, told her employees Thursday morning that she wanted to see the UPS letter immediately once it arrived.

They knew what that meant.

Some Denver-based car dealerships already had received their letters from Chrysler, detailing whether they would continue operating as a Chrysler retailer.

When the letter arrived, Kitzman started to open it and could see workers gathering around her office, faces pressed against her windows.

So, she decided the letter was too important to open alone, and she read the letter aloud to the whole staff.

Everyone cheered when they learned Victory Motors would keep Chrysler and Dodge and be largely unaffected by the American car manufacturer's bankruptcy.

For Kitzman, the experience shook her understanding of her own business.

"You try to carry things like this yourself and not let it trickle down," she said. "It was really a wake-up call. Everyone here listens to the news. They were scared they would lose their jobs."

The day was not so kind to a dealership down the street.

Cook Chevrolet, which also sells Jeeps, a brand owned by Chrysler, received worse news.

Owner Scott Cook's was notified Chrysler plans to "reject" his Jeep franchise.

He said it was most likely because he only sells Jeeps and no other Chrysler makes. American manufacturers seem intent on "streamlining" their franchises, which means Chrysler dealers would sell all the company's different vehicle lines.

Standalones like Cook would then go away.

Cook doesn't know for sure why his dealership was one of at least 12 in the state being closed.

"It's been one of those things where they really have not told anyone the criteria for how they're choosing," he said.

Still, even a signed letter is less than a guarantee in today's shifting auto industry, Cook added.

"We tentatively are probably going to lose our Jeep franchise," he said. "There have been so many things happen in this whole saga that everything could change."

As confusing as the process has been, its direction is equally mysterious to Cook.

Most dealers are confused why the federal government's auto taskforce recommended closing dealerships in the first place, he said.

Since manufacturers can get loans for building vehicles, and any costs they incur are normally passed on to the dealers, Cook doesn't understand why shedding dealerships, which basically are the manufacturer's customers, is going to stabilize their business.

Whatever the reasoning, if Thursday's news comes to pass, it will affect Cook Chevrolet.

"We sell some new Jeeps and we service new Jeeps, so it's obviously not good news," Cook said. "We'll survive, though. Jeep is a smaller part of our business, and we'll be here to provide Chevys and Subarus to our community."

Businesses need customers to survive, though, no matter what brands they sell.

In that regard, Cook said he's lucky to live in the Yampa Valley, where most people still have their jobs and life for the average consumer remains largely unchanged by the national recession.

But, despite the area's good fortune, consumer confidence, however unjustified, still is low, he added.

If people remain unwilling to spend, which Cook doesn't think will be the case, it could have more drastic consequences for the area.

"It's the Chicken Little syndrome," he said. "Unfortunately, with the economy, when you hear enough bad news, the sky really does fall."

Neither Cook nor Kitzman are done watching the mail.

GM is expected to send its own letters to dealerships today, which could close the Pontiac franchise at Victory now that the line is being shut down, and could impact Cook's main Chevrolet franchise.

Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or cesmith@craigdailypress.com.

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.