WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The Chrysler corporation plans to close nearly 800 car dealerships as they fight to stay in business.
The motion states just over 50% of its dealers account for about 90% of the company's U.S. sales. Dealers may appeal the proposal.
Chrysler has received $4 billion in federal loans and has been operating under bankruptcy protection since April 30. Its sales this year are down 46% compared with the first four months of last year. Chrysler reported a nearly $17 billion net loss for 2008.
While most local dealerships are not affected, there is one that will be changing the way they do business.
Employees at Wilmington's D&E Dodge Dealership have been answering phones, explaining to customers that they are not going out of business.
The dealership showed up on Chrysler's list of dealerships to cut as part of a reorganization.
"I was both surprised and disappointed when I saw our name was on the list to be canceled, very surprised," said general manager Andy Craven.
D&E Dodge will only be able to sell new vehicles until June. After that, the dealership will stay open for used car sales and for maintenance work.
"We didn't do anything wrong," said Craven. "We're very well financed, we're in a solid financial position here at D&E dodge and we're going to stay open. We're going to be a used car dealership now, but we are going to stay open."
Potential customers say they want to take advantage of that.
"Seeing if they are going to slash the prices of the trucks, because I want to get me one of the newer models," said potential customer Harold Sidbury Jr.
Local dealers say Chrysler eventually wants its remaining dealerships to sell all product lines - Jeep, Chrysler, and Dodge. It's part of what they call, "project genesis."
The owner of Neuwirth Motors in Wilmington said he expects to add Dodge to his line of cars soon, but that doesn't help workers at D&E Dodge.
"Unfortunately going from a new car dealership to a used car dealership - we'll probably have to make a few cutbacks and there will be a few people losing their jobs," said Craven.
The new changes at D&E will be taking effect June 9.
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