Chrysler plans new dealerships

Two months after terminating 789 dealerships, Chrysler Group LLC is approaching some of those dealers to compete for a chance to sell Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep cars again in one of 140 “open” locations throughout the United States.

So far, two terminated dealers have applied, but Chrysler spokeswoman Kathy Graham said it could take two years to open all the new locations.

It might take some difficult conversations to re-establish trust with dealers who lost new car franchises, which in some cases had been owned by the same family for two or three generations. Chrysler acknowledged it has not yet paid many terminated dealers for the rebates they needed to sell their last vehicles.

Jim Tarbox, who was stripped of his Jeep dealership in North Kingstown, R.I., and a Dodge dealership in Attleboro, Mass., said a Chrysler official told him last week he would be considered as a candidate for a new location near the one he closed.

“I don’t know if they’re harassing me or what. They just took everything away from me,” said Tarbox. His Jeep dealership consistently exceeded Chrysler’s sales and customer satisfaction targets.

Graham said Chrysler is looking for new property even in towns where dealerships were terminated because the old sites weren’t in high-traffic locations. The company also will evaluate prospective dealers who were not terminated in June. New locations would sell Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge brands.

Successful candidates must have “sufficient capitalization,” but Graham declined to quantify that.

Chuck Eddy, a Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge dealer near Youngstown, Ohio, said Chrysler would not accept dealers who want to sell any non-Chrysler brands from the same site.

“I will guarantee you the bar will be high,” Eddy said. “That’s not going to make the terminated dealers happy.”

(c) 2009, Detroit Free Press. Source: McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.