Shelbyville Chrysler not on company's hit list

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By Scotty McDaniel

Shelbyville Chrysler Jeep received good news from the Chrysler Corp. on Thursday: The company is keeping the store open.

As a direct result of the ongoing financial struggles of the U.S. auto industry, Chrysler informed 789 dealerships nationwide on Thursday that they would be closing. That's a quarter of the 3,181 stores it was operating when the automaker filed for bankruptcy on April 30.

A strict criterion was used to select which dealers would stay open to be a part of the more profitable network of sellers, and Shelbyville Chrysler Jeep Inc. met the requirements.

“We got a letter that we’re going to be a part of the new Chrysler," dealership owner Jack Brown said. "So we won’t be affected. We were hand picked.”

The good news was made better because of the uncertainty leading up to the decision. When the possibility of closing the stores initially surfaced, Chrysler didn’t reveal its criteria. Fortunately for Brown, his dealership excelled where it needed to.

“They went by dealerships that were profitable, with good customer satisfaction, well capitalized at a good facility and who sold their quotas,” he said. “If it [the criteria] was on size of the market, then we wouldn’t be fine.”

According to details filed in bankruptcy court, just more than half of the Chrysler stores across the country account for more than 90 percent of the company’s sales.

Though the closings mean that thousands of people will lose their jobs across the country, the 25 employees at Shelbyville Chrysler Jeep will keep their jobs and continue providing Shelbyville residents with their services.

“It’s good news for Shelbyville. It keeps the jobs here. It means people can buy cars in town. They don’t have to drive to Louisville to buy cars, get their car serviced or buy parts,” Brown said.

“They reiterated today that Shelbyville is a town they want to do business with.”

Chrysler's plans to eliminate so many franchise dealers still need the approval of U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Arthur Gonzalez, who is overseeing the government’s restructuring of the company. A hearing is scheduled for June 3 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York.

GMC could be next

Meanwhile, General Motors Corp. has been lurking nearer bankruptcy and has indicated that it could soon eliminate up to 2,000 of its roughly 6,000 dealers in the U.S.

And that has a couple of local dealerships awaiting word.

In Eminence, Jeff Browning, owner of Browning Chevrolet, said Thursday he had yet to hear anything on the future of his dealership.

“We don’t know. We only hear what we hear on the news,” he said.

Managers of Bob Hook Chevrolet in Shelbyville did not return messages left by The Sentinel-News.

Like Chrysler, GMC has been staying alive on U.S. government loans. The two automakers have borrowed $20 billion from taxpayers. 

GMC recently posted a $6-billion quarterly loss, and failures to meet company standards for capitalization led the government to give the automaker until June 1 to restructure or file for bankruptcy.