How Chrysler’s affecting dealerships

Marketplace Staff May 6, 2009
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How Chrysler’s affecting dealerships

Marketplace Staff May 6, 2009
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TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Kai Ryssdal: The White House said today it’s pleased with the way the Chrysler bankruptcy is progressing. The same can’t necessarily be said though, for Chrysler dealers. The company’s planning to close down hundreds of them, at least. In a meeting with dealers yesterday Chrysler said it’ll decide who stays and who goes based on a combination of sales, size and location. Henry Hagedoorn runs a Chrysler Jeep dealership in Northern New Jersey. Mr. Hagedoorn, good to have you with us.

HENRY HAGEDOORN: Good to be with you, Kai.

Ryssdal: How is business on day, whatever it is, five or six of the bankruptcy?

HAGEDOORN: Business is still trotting along at a slow rate. We haven’t seen an increase and maybe a slight decrease in the new car traffic.

Ryssdal: When customers come in do they mention the bankruptcy and all the things that are happening with Chrysler?

HAGEDOORN: Some do. There’s percentage of the customers that are just regular buyers that are committed to the product, and there are some coming in with questions. They don’t know how it’s going to affect us. How it’s going to affect the product that they are looking to purchase.

Ryssdal: Do they understand what the government has said about backing warranties and making sure all those arrangements are going to be upheld?

HAGEDOORN: I don’t think all do. I think there’s actually lack of knowledge. I think that they just hear bankruptcy and Chapter 11. They don’t understand that the company will be here.

Ryssdal: How much information and support are you getting from Chrysler corporate?

HAGEDOORN: Actually, they’re being very informative. They told us right away on last Friday with a phone conference how they’re going to move forward, what their plans were for the dealers. And we’re already moving forward with getting financing through GMAC, I was on the phone with them today. And our lines for writing consumer paper should be open hopefully by Monday.

Ryssdal: So consumer financing is working through the General Motors arm of the auto-financing branch.

HAGEDOORN: Yes, it will be. It’s going to be going through GMAC.

Ryssdal: You know, even though, Chrysler is talking to you and helping with you and working things out, they are going to close many hundreds of their dealers. Are you worried that you could be one?

HAGEDOORN: Yeah, there’s some worry here. We don’t know exactly who those dealers are going to be. We’re trying to make guesses as to the stronger, the ones that have had retail numbers, that have worked with them on their programs, all of the above. And I’m hoping I’m one of those.

Ryssdal: How strong are you? How big of a franchise, how much business do you do?

HAGEDOORN: Well, we’ve been one of the top 50 in the eastern zone here for over 10 years. Our numbers have dropped off, as all the dealers in the area have. We’re probably in the hundreds to a month and now we’re down at least to 20, 30, 40, up and down between there.

Ryssdal: How long are you expecting it’s going to be before all this shakes out?

HAGEDOORN: I think that’s going to depend on how soon it takes for the consumer to understand. I think it’s going to depend on how long it takes Chrysler to come out of bankruptcy. And I think it’s going to depend on how the credit lines open up for the dealers first and for the customers also. I think by six or eight months from now, you’re going to see a stronger company. You’re going to see a pent-up demand in the consumer. They’re going to know there’s a great product coming out from Chrysler, and some new products from Fiat that are very exciting. And if we’re around in six to eight months there’s going to be prosperity there.

Ryssdal: Henry Hagedoorn runs Borough Chrysler Jeep in Wayne, N.J. Mr. Hagedoorn, thanks a lot for your time.

HAGEDOORN: You’re welcome.

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