GM and Chrysler were already culling dealers before their bankruptcies, which hastened the process. Many of those dealerships were profitable businesses, often family owned, whether or not they were ultimately an asset to the parent automakers. Dealers have established regional brand equity, being major advertisers in their markets. The dealers losing their franchises have explored what few options they have. There are lobbying efforts at the state and national levels to protect the affected dealers with some kind of legislation. Some have signed up with Hyundai & Kia, as the low priced Korean automakers thrive in the recession. Others, recognizing that new car sales are often a wash, and that repair service and used car sales are profit centers, have stayed in business as used car dealerships or automotive service centers.
Now Sears Roebuck & Co. has offered some of those culled dealers another lifeline. Banking on the reputation of its DieHard battery brand as well as being one of the country’s leader tire retailers, Sears is launching the Independent Sears Auto Center franchise program, starting with a former Chrysler dealer in New Jersey, the Coleman Auto Group. Participating stores will offer Sears’ full automotive product line of batteries, tire, accesories as well as repair services and replacement parts.