Being a Suzuki dealer is surely one of America’s least enviable jobs; franchise holders must choose whether to accept a cash settlement and a contract to provide parts and service in exchange for their franchises, or whether they want to fight the matter in court.
Based on Suzuki’s estimate of $50 million in total, the settlements average out to about $227,000 per dealer. Payouts are set to be calculated based on sales volume, rent, how much inventory is held, facility investment and other factors. But by taking the deal, they waive the right to any future claims against Suzuki.
Automotive News highlights the main question on the minds of Suzuki’s former sales force; will a payout be comparable to what dealers would receive in accordance with state franchise laws. The predicament, according to AN, is this
Had Suzuki simply canceled the franchises, outside bankruptcy court, state franchise laws would have compelled the automaker to buy back new-vehicle inventory and parts and to compensate dealers for facilities and other costs.
A National Automobile Dealers Association official last week said Suzuki dealers should receive what they would be entitled to under franchise laws and advised them to consult attorneys. Dealers were receiving the offers late last week and were bound by confidentiality agreements.
Suzuki dealers can choose not to sign the settlement offers and file a claim in the bankruptcy case for what they believe they are owed. But such a move means a dealer’s claim could be worth just pennies on the dollar by the time Suzuki pays off other, higher-priority creditors.
While one attorney says that the dealers will represent the largest unsecured creditors, only a small percentage of Suzuki dealers sell most of the cars. A majority of them sell fewer than 5 new Suzukis per month.