Having seen what Cerberus has done to one of its acquirees (New Page, a group of mills that produce coated paper), nothing should surprise me. But the way that Chrysler treated its dealers as stuffees, pressuring them take extra inventory and make extra investments in plant and facilities shortly before the dealerships were cancelled, is simply heinous. In addition, Chrysler is cutting all ties as of June 9. By contrast, GM is far more humane, allowing dealers to continue operating until 2010, but giving them the option of wrapping up sooner if they choose.
Some disaffected Chrysler dealers are suing the automaker to block the termination. From the New York Times:
Mr. [Robert] Archer is among 330 dealers, calling themselves the Committee of Chrysler Affected Dealers, who are contesting the company’s action. Next week and on June 3, the bankruptcy judge handling Chrysler’s case will consider their objections.
Many of those fighting the hardest are dealers who recently spent huge amounts of money to stay in the company’s good graces, who sacrificed their own profits to help keep the company intact or who otherwise thought they had bent over backward to ensure that Chrysler could survive, only to learn that they were the ones who would not.
“I’m mad at myself for being duped all these years by them and going along with all of the things they wanted me to do,” said Homer Cutrubus, a Chrysler dealer in Utah since 1969. “If I treated my customers like Chrysler treated me, I wouldn’t have any business.”
For years, Chrysler had been urging Mr. Cutrubus and other dealers to combine dealerships with just one or two of the company’s brands into “alpha” stores selling all three: Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep. It stepped up that pressure in February, he said, and in April he finally agreed to move his Dodge store in Layton, Utah, into a Chrysler-Jeep showroom half a mile away, even though he thought the change made little sense financially and had to be done at his own expense.
Included in the exhibits filed in bankruptcy court is an e-mail message from a Chrysler official in Denver to Mr. Cutrubus that said the company wanted to keep only one of the four area dealerships, preferably him. It concluded, “Are you our guy?”
“I called them the next day and said, ‘Yeah, we’ve got a deal,’ ” Mr. Cutrubus said. Six weeks later, after he already had spent $100,000 making the move, he got the letter cutting all his franchises….
Chrysler is not buying back any inventory, including the vehicles and parts that dealers say they never wanted and bought only under pressure. And the entire process, which gives them only until June 9 to liquidate everything, is far from fair, they contend.
The article has more anecdotes of shoddy dealer treatment.