A Dodge dealership's last day

June 9, 2009 3:34:18 PM PDT
A bankruptcy judge ruled Tuesday Chrysler can go ahead with its plan to terminate the franchises of 789 of its dealers. Many Chrysler dealerships expected this decision, and they've already began taking steps to clear inventory.

That includes "Weathers Dodge" on West Baltimore Pike in Lima, Pa. The words "Inventory Clearance" told the story.

"We have an incredibly loyal customer base. The community supports us in so many was," said Larry Weathers III of Weathers Dodge.

115 cars have been sold here in the last few weeks; more than a dozen today alone. In face, employees have been working since midnight some days, just to get all the paperwork done.

Last month the dealership was honored as the "family business of the year." One week later, it received a letter from Chrysler, announcing it was not going to renew its franchise agreement.

"With our track record here and the credentials that we had, we really didn't think we were going to be on the list of being cut," Weathers said.

Weathers Dodge has been in business for 87 years, one of Chrysler's oldest and most profitable dealerships and among the highest in the nation in customer satisfaction. It received Chrysler's Five Star Award for Excellence more than 30 times.

That's why there are so many questions about the decision to close it.

"We didn't get an answer. That's what is hurtful and puzzling," Weathers said.

But as abrupt and disappointing as Chrysler's action is, the Weathers say it's also bittersweet.

"I guess the sweet part is, this gives us the opportunity to venture off into new and bigger and better things," said Weathes. "It's a time of opportunity and we're going to take full advantage of it."

On that note, "Weathers Dodge" will not be vacant after today. First thing tomorrow morning it becomes "Weathers Motors," a used car and service operation.

The fate of the employees is still uncertain, but the owners are going to try to keep everyone they can.

Meantime, an auto industry spokesperson said today, that "interbrand competition" was the reason that successful dealerships like Weathers Dodge have ended up on Chrysler's hit list.

The company says there were just too many dealerships in one area or location, allowing customers to drive down prices.

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