Chrysler dealers who were terminated and then re-instated have been left out in the cold, after a federal judge ruled that the Federal Appropriations Act, a 2010 law that opened the door for dealers to regain their franchises via arbitration, did not overrule state dealer laws that deal with dealer markets.
Chrysler is doing better than GM. At least when it comes to winning arbitration cases brought by culled dealers. GM lost both cases brought against them. Chrysler bats much better. (Read More…)
The Denver Business Journal reports that the Colorado Senate has approved fines of $10,000-$25,000 per day for any automaker that does not comply with its law (HB-1049) requiring reinstatement or compensation of culled dealers. That law was passed earlier this year, drawing a $60,000 vote-no lobbying effort from GM. It also gives culled dealers the right of first refusal for new franchises opened within five miles of their shut dealership within five years, and states that if a franchise has been re-awarded, the culled dealer can demand the return of his franchise. According to the DBJ:
Three terminated Chrysler dealers requested their re-awarded franchises back after the law was signed and said they were told by the company that it had no intentions of complying with it. Chrysler then filed a federal lawsuit on April 23 against Colorado, claiming the new law contradicted terms laid out in Chrysler’s bankruptcy agreement and violates the contract clauses in the state and federal constitutions.
About half of all dealers culled in the GM and Chrysler bankruptcies have filed for congressionally-mandated arbitration, reports Automotive News [sub]. 409 of the 789 culled Chrysler dealers and over 1,000 of the 2,000 culled GM dealers have paid the $1,625 to file for arbitration, and will move into the next phase of the process: agreeing on an arbitrator. Having threatened to sabotage the process with a lawsuit on constitutional grounds, it’s a bit of a surprise to see Chrysler suddenly validating the arbitration process,but that’s what appears to be taking place. Chrysler tells AN [sub]:
The company looks forward to the expeditious completion of the process. A robust dealer network is a critical component of the group’s strategy of rebuilding a strong and resilient American automaker
Representatives of the culled dealers are optimistic that many could be reinstated when arbitration wraps up in June, but only if Chrysler continues to approach the arbitration process with an open mind. Whether that happens or not will be clear as the process goes on.
The deadline for culled dealers to apply for congressionally-mandated arbitration is midnight tonight, so if you lost your Chrysler or GM dealership in last year’s bankruptcy cull, you’d best get cracking. The Detroit News reports that at least 1,200 of the roughly 3,000 culled dealers had applied for arbitration, according to the American Arbitration Association. That number is expected to creep rise even higher by the time the deadline expires. Many observers had expected arbitration applications to be much lower, as GM and Chrysler had dragged out the proceedings, forcing many dealers to shutter their shops. GM has already reversed the closure of 80 dealers and Chariman/CEO Ed Whitacre has said he expects “hundreds” more to be reinstated in arbitration. Chrysler continues to take a hard line on the issue, a stance that is sure to make its arbitration proceedings considerably more tense.
Chrysler may file a suit challenging the congressionally mandated dealer cull arbitration, reveals CEO Sergio Marchionne to Automotive News [sub].Why? Because it’s just not fair that dealers pressured congress to give them a fair shake. Wounded by the arbitrary backlash against his arbitrary cull, Marchionne threw his head back and cried unto the heavens:
Ask me what fairness is involved in all this. Why doesn’t anyone ask what’s fair to Chrysler?
Normally we’re more than a little skeptical of the Center for Automotive Research’s home-town homerism. But then, the Detroit-funded think tank usually has its rose-colored shades firmly in place. This time around, their findings are surprisingly pessimistic. CAR’s chief economist Sean McAlinden tells Reuters
If [Chrysler’s] market share drops to like 6 percent in the next two years, that’s a 40 percent drop in market share and they only dropped their dealerships by 25 percent
With Chrysler’s sales falling by 20 to 50 percent each month since bankruptcy, this strikes us as a very real possibility. Which means dealers hoping to be reinstated by recently passed arbitration legislation will face an uphill slog. And, according to Automotive News [sub], an expensive one. Reinstatement arbitration will carry a pricetag of between $12k and $100k. If Chrysler’s sales continue to decline in the short term, and with no new product on tap they seem certain to, Chrysler may be forced to re-think a number of elements of its much-vaunted turnaround plan.