By on May 26, 2009

TTAC’s Best and Brightest spent some time this weekend examining the question of whether or not Chrysler and GM needed to terminate nearly 2000 dealers between them, both pro and con. We didn’t look at WHICH dealers got the axe, for two reasons. First, despite receiving nearasdammit $20 billion in taxpayer money (so far), GM has steadfastly refused to release a list of the 1100 dealers emailed their walking papers. The Huffington Post blog (of all people) has a partial tally, but GM ain’t gonna spill. Which, if you think about it, protects car dealers at the expense of taxpayers, who might not know they’re buying a car from a dead dealer trading. Bastardos! That said, when GM’s Marketing Maven, Mark LeNeve, announced the cull, he claimed that the business brains who made the cut based their decisions largely (if not exclusively) on volume. Chrysler, in contrast, produced a list of the dispossessed—and it’s all over the show. Urban, suburban, large, small, medium; the logic underpinning their choices is an enigma wrapped in a “Dear John” email. Or is it? The internets are abuzz with the tin foil hat-wearing theory that the cuts were made based on partisan politics. Check it out . . .

After receiving a tip about the possibility of political considerations affecting, The Free Republic did a little test.

I took all dealer owners whose names appeared more than once in the list. And, of those who contributed to political campaigns, every single one had donated almost exclusively to GOP candidates. While this isn’t an exhaustive review, it does have some ominous implications if it can be verified . . .

Consider the partial list of Chrysler dealership owners, listed below. You’ll notice that all were opponents of Barack Obama, most through sponsorship of GOP candidates and organizations, but a handful through Barack’s Democrat rivals (Hillary Clinton and John Edwards in 2008, for example).

• Vernon G. Buchanan: $147,450 to GOP candidates and organizations
• Wallace D. Alley and Family: $4,500 to GOP.
• Robert Archer: $4,600 to GOP and conservative causes.
• Homer S. Higginbotham and Family: $2950 to GOP.
• James Auffenberg and Family: $28,000 to GOP; $6,000 to one Democrat candidate.
• Michael Maroone and Family: $60,000 to GOP; $8,500 to two Democrat candidates.
• Jerome Fader: $6,500 to Democrats; $2,500 to Independent Joe Lieberman.
• Stephen Fay and Family: $13,500 to GOP.
• William Numrich: $20,000 to GOP.
• Robert Carver: $10,000 to Democrats including $1,950 to Hillary Clinton, nothing to Barack Obama.
• Robert and Linda Rohrman: $24,000 to GOP.
• Frank Boucher, Jr. and Family: $18,000 to GOP, $1,000 to one Democrat candidate.
• Scott Bossier: $4,300 to GOP.
• Todd Reardon: $17,000 to GOP; $2,000 to one Democrat candidate.
• Russ Darrow and Family: $78,000 to GOP.
• Bradford Deery and Family: $24,700 to GOP.
• Charles Gabus and Family: $30,000 to GOP.
• Brian Smith: $15,500 to GOP.
• Michael Schlossman: $14,000 to GOP; $14,000 to three Democrats ($12,500 to Sen. Russ Feingold).
• Don Hill: $11,000 to GOP; $12,800 to conservative incumbent Rep. Heath Shuler.

Bottom line (or not):

I have thus far found only a single Obama donor (and a minor one at that: $200 from Jeffrey Hunter of Waco, Texas) on the closing list.

Even if this is a simple reflection of your average car dealer’s political leaning, there’s a lot of confusion out there amongst ex-Chrysler dealers as to why some got the chop and others didn’t. As you’d expect, as Automotive News reports, emotions are running high.

“I’m too stubborn to quit, and I’m too stupid to go away,” said the owner of Richard Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge in the western Chicago suburb of St. Charles. “I’m going to keep selling cars and fight this to the end.”

“We don’t fit the guidelines for closure,” Massarelli said. “We’re profitable, we’ve never missed a payment and we’ve done everything Chrysler has ever asked us to help them out.”

“Every time Chrysler said they needed us, we were there for them,” Massarelli said. “Now they won’t even return my calls.”

From a PR perspective, this is a channel stuffed with not good. Severed Chrysler dealers are making a fuss in Congress and federal bankruptcy court, where they’re trying to halt Judge Arthur Gonzalez’ approval (on Wednesday) of the asset sale which will create “new” Chrysler. Perhaps this is a disinformation campaign. Perhaps not. Either way, even if the fix (as in canine fertility) was in, it doesn’t look like they’re going to stop the train from leaving the station.

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42 Comments on “Did Chrysler Kill “Republican” Dealers, Or What?...”


  • avatar
    tonycd

    Cue the wingnuts.

  • avatar
    xyzzy

    You’d need to compare this to the partisan giving of the dealers that weren’t shitcanned to know if there is something suspect here. I suspect that car dealership owners dealers in general, kept or not, skew heavily Republican.

  • avatar
    slateslate

    *roll my eyes*….crazy guess, but as a cohort most car dealers probably tilt Republican.

    Now this hypothesis that only Republican dealers were nailed would have more validility if the remaining car dealers had disproportionately greater number of Obama-supporting dealers.

    Note the title of the FreeP article was “Anti-Obama campaign contributions dictate which Chrysler dealers were shuttered?” …not “Did Pro-Obama contributions save Chrysler dealers?”

    Two very different statements.

    Sincerely,

    Not an Obama-ite, just someone who likes to see evidence backing up claims.

  • avatar
    geeber

    I’d have to agree that car dealers, in general, are more likely to be Republican, and therefore donate to the Republican party at the national level. So, unless we find proof that most of the surviving dealers gave their money to the Obama campaign, there is nothing to see here.

    A more interesting analysis would be to compare the donations of surviving dealers and culled dealers to members of Congress. That may be more telling…

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    If the vast majority of all car dealer owners, regardless of marque or make, vote Republican, does this prove anything?

    I saw something a while back showing that that Rick Wagoner, et al send their political slush money to Republicans. Perhaps then the Freepers can conclude that Wagoner was tossed as a result of the PTFOA being politically biased.

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    Notice, there are large Republican AND Democratic donors on the above list.

    Dealers are businesses, they make often make bets based on the odds, not ideology, and the odds were against Obama.

    That and I’m sure many dealers fashion themselves as rugged Republicans despite lobbying for levels of state and local government intervention and protectionism that would embarrass a leftist European (it’s nothing personal ideological, just business).

    It might be better to kill bad and redundant dealers over time, but the dealers have made it so expensive to shut down underperforming/customer abusing/redundant dealerships that the dealerships need to be shut down quickly during bankruptcy, because there is no way that GM or Chrysler could afford to shut them down outside of bankruptcy (yes I know that GM is not yet legally bankrupt, but it won’t escape the lawsuits from the dealers it shut down until it is).

  • avatar
    Srynerson

    There’s also a potential correlation if Chrysler was less likely to pull the plug on minority-owned dealerships, regardless of what the owner’s political affiliation was. Chrysler could have very well decided to structure the terminations that way to avoid PR/legal problems even in the absence of any deliberate pro-Obama tilt.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Nobody over at FreeRepublic is waiting for “the rest of the story,” Fascism has landed. Was it Sinclair Lewis who said that, “if fascism ever comes to the US it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross?” Plenty of flags at all the local Detroiter dealerships.

    There’s yet another possibility and that’s one that will be more difficult to tease out… Perhaps the Republican mindset leads to a dealership style that deserves (in some objective sense) to be shut down.

    Without some clear understanding of Chrysler’s criteria for closing dealerships, this is all a lot of speculation.

    That graphic is kind of useless, isn’t it? Dealers to be closed by state? It roughly tracks with – surprise – the size of the state. Wouldn’t percentage of dealerships be more interesting? Wouldn’t population density, per capita income, Chrysler unit sales and mean area served per dealership be interesting factors to consider?

  • avatar
    Happy_Endings

    I would guess that dealers tend to be white males over the age of 50 that are moderately wealthy (most would have a net worth in the seven figures, I’d figure). These types of people tend to be overwhelmingly Republican.

  • avatar
    dcdriver

    The GOP is genarally pro-business. Car dealerships are businesses, hence, most car dealership owners and most business owners in general tend to favor the GOP.

  • avatar

    Ooh, here’s a bit of brilliance. I think it’s good to hold people’s feet to the fire and examine how decisions are made, but this is a partisan canard. Ooh, what’s this, the Free Republic has a story crafted to make a Democratic president look bad! What’s next, a Mother Jones article criticizing a Republican lawmaker?

    In sum, this is something that should be looked into. Unfortunately, the present team of investigators made it’s decision long ago about the results and is going to twist the facts to push an agenda. Weak sauce.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    Coincidentally I’ve been wondering about something along these lines, only more with the slant of pushing the argument that the executive branch is trampling on federal bankruptcy law.

    I would be interested in seeing how dealerships scheduled for closure fall in respect to congressional districts. Do zombie dealers lie disproportionately within currently Democrat or currently Republican districts?

    Wouldn’t it be interesting if closed dealers lie in Democrat districts in greater proportions than Democrats hold in Congress? I may even test fit a tinfoil hat and think it happened with the aim of dealers lobbying for special investigations of Obama and/or the PTFOA. Republicans I assume would be so predisposed but Democrats may be convinced if loud voices among their constituents make themselves heard.

  • avatar
    moedaman

    I’m not an Obama supporter by any means. But I think this is pretty stupid. I’m willing to bet that the majority of car dealers, even minority dealers, are Republican.

    “I would be interested in seeing how dealerships scheduled for closure fall in respect to congressional districts. Do zombie dealers lie disproportionately within currently Democrat or currently Republican districts?”

    Now this would be a more interesting route to follow.

  • avatar
    rjsasko

    I live near St. Charles and there may be something to this story. When the closure list came out it didn’t make much sense for this area. They seem to be leaving huge areas without a dealership and the ones they are closing aren’t the ancient “mom and pop” four car showroom inner city ones they profile in the news. Just how many suburbs (and how many competitor dealerships) do they think people will pass through to get to a New Chrysler dealership? I am going to be watching out for just who starts buying up closed dealerships. If New Chrysler starts reopening dealerships that are under new “politically connected” owners it would not surprise me in the least.

  • avatar
    grog

    I assume quoting a study from freeperville is simply to highlight one example of what the wingnuts are saying about the dealer closings?

    I live in the second reddest county in Misery, this place went 73% for McCain and the Grifter from Alaska. We’re rurl and we have two car dealerships, one GM (that had $42 million in business in 2007–this in a county of 13K white people) and the other Chrysler.

    Both remain alive. The Chrysler dealership owner was quoted in the local weekly as saying that in their communications with whatever passes for HQ these days, they were told that rurl dealerships such as theirs were vital to the future of the brand.

    Same with the GM doods.

    Their biggest problem is that they’ve lost loyal customers over the years because of the lousy products foisted on them by their respective automakers. Combine that with the fact that other brands have expanded in terms of dealerships explains why when we moved here in 1996 and had the *only* foreeeen car in the county (our 85 Prelude), now, there’s tons of em.

  • avatar
    gzuckier

    Red state “science” education, what can you do.

  • avatar
    Autojunkie

    I would expect to read something this crazy on abovetopsecret.com

  • avatar
    Gregg

    The irony here is that had their contributions to the republicans worked out and McCain became president, all the rest of the dealers would be in the same boat and Chryco would be being sold in bits and pieces in Chapter 7.

  • avatar
    gm0ney

    Well, the fact that Chrysler hasn’t really made clear what the criteria for shuttering a dealership were leaves the process open to this kind of wild speculation.

    Also, politicians are involved and a lot of folks are probably of the mindset that “well, I wouldn’t put it past them”.

  • avatar
    50merc

    Inevitably, this thread has sunk into name-calling. As a conservative and social scientist, I will stipulate that the Freep’s research is worthless, kind of like investigating Oscar winners in Hollywood and finding most of them are lefties.

    As a political scientist, I would observe that the effects of the Chrysler bankruptcy (and soon, GM’s) mainly remind us elections have consequences. The UAW gets a lot more support from the White House than executives, bondholders, shareholders and, of course, dealers.

    The real question now is “which GM dealers got a pink slip?” The news media claims to be pro-consumer, but so far it’s MIA on this issue.

  • avatar
    John_K

    Hmmm…. so that must make the surviving dealerships “Hemicrats”?

    Sorry – Couldn’t help myself.

  • avatar
    70 Chevelle SS454

    It is completely insane to suggest that a company completely dependent on government handouts from a Democratic President and Democratic Congress would quietly remove a handful of solid Democratic donors and party boosters from its “cull” lists.

    That’s just crazy talk.

    Next thing you’ll be telling me is the aforesaid Democratic President screwed state pension plan holders of Chrysler stock to finance a giveaway to solid Democrat union supporters.

    This website has devolved into conspiracy theory!

  • avatar
    Kevin

    Well, with these guys losing their livelihoods I bet they’re REAL HAPPY now at the thought that they just pissed away tens of thousands of dollars on a bunch of damn politicians of whatever stripe.

  • avatar
    Bearadise

    [email protected]”Hmmm…. so that must make the surviving dealerships “Hemicrats”?”

    Or Demo-Rides

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    We didn’t look at WHICH dealers got the axe,

    Well I did, a little bit. I showed my findings for a few states on John Horner’s editorial. As far as I can tell they are culling dealers that are in close proximity to one another.

    As I said on the other thread, in MI only one dealer on the closure list is further than 25 miles from the next closest dealer. In MT, 2 of the 3 closing dealers are more than 25 miles from their nearest cohort, but one is less than 50 and the other less than 100. In MT, the distances between anything and anything are often great. In KS, not a single dealer that is on the list is further than 25 miles away from another who is not being closed.

    It appears to me someone sat down and examined a map pretty carefully and culled unneeded dealers that were too close to others.

  • avatar
    davejay

    As others have said above, this data doesn’t point to anything unless it is compared to the contributions of dealerships that were not closed.

    Also, this:

    “I took all dealer owners whose names appeared more than once in the list…”

    Well, someone who owns more than one dealership is more likely someone wealthier, and so more likely to lean Republican, right? As it is, we’re seeing a list that’s flawed on two counts. Correlation is not causation, as they say, but the absence of the other data mentioned prevents this from even being correlation. It looks more cherry-picked to skew one way (hmm, no connection between closed dealers and republican contributions…how about if we just look at the dealers who own more than one? Oh, there!)

    Meanwhile, I could just as easily take this (flawed) statistical data and claim that it indicates dealerships owned by Republicans are more likely to be poor performers. Just as ridiculous.

  • avatar
    capdeblu

    After eight years of Republican conservative “values” shoved down my throat(literally) this is delightful news.

    What goes around comes around.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    It won’t matter anyway. By the time the Fiats show up to the save the day, all the Chrysler dealers will have collapsed due to lack of sales.

  • avatar

    Imagine if it had been the reverse, and democrats were culled. I can almost her the high pitched squeal of Senator Clinton about a vast right wing conspiracy (no, not THAT one, another one).

    If it was the other way around, we would be hearing the MSM address it. I guarantee it.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    Here’s a good example of what is really going on.

    In Indianapolis, 3 Chryco dealers are being culled.

    First, there is Gene Beltz, Shadeland Dodge, on Shadeland Ave. On the same street -Shadeland Ave.- in the same zip code, 46219 you have Eastgate Chrysler Jeep, a mere .30 miles away. The other two dealers in Circle City (Indy) who are closing are both Palmer family dealers.

    Palmer Dodge on East 96th Street is less than 6 miles from Champion Chrysler Jeep Dodge, on West 96th Street. Champion will remain open. Palmer Chrysler Jeep Dodge, on W Pike Plaza Rd. is the third closure. Again, there is already Champion in Indy to sell you a Dodge, as well as Tom O’Brien Chrysler Jeep, if you’re not finicky about sub-Mopar branding. If you prefer, you can drive to nearby Greenwood, only 11.51 miles away and get your Dodge from Tom O’Brien Chrysler Jeep Dodge.

    There is no need for conspiracy theories – one only needs to do a bit of basic research (beyond the capabilities of most mainstream Jurnos, I know. And well beyond the capabilities of Freeper wing nuts) Dealers are simply being culled due to over-saturation in certain markets.

    As an aside, I would bet the Palmer Dodge stores are owned by the family of the infamous Eldon Palmer, who crashed a 71 Challenger Pace Car at Indy. I remember it well, as dad took me and my brother to the race that year.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    In fact, the National Auto Dealers Association’s political contributions for 2008 went 66% Repulican, 34% Democratic.

    http://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/lookup2.php?strID=C00040998&cycle=2008

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Here’s a little reality check: the local Chrysler dealership that’s closing is owned by the Burt chain, which is one of the largest auto dealer chains in the country. The head of the company is Lloyd Chavez.

    Both Chrysler and GM are closing one of his dealerships; both are right down the street from my house, and were opened within the last three years.

    His only political contribution I could find was to a Democrat. Mr. Chavez is a prominent Hispanic businessman in Denver.

    If this guy can get two of his locations whacked, despite having one of the largest dealer chains in the country, despite being a Democrat, despite being Hispanic, then the reason here is low sales and NOTHING else.

  • avatar
    chuckR

    FreedMike

    OTOH, there is a Jeep dealer near me whose store is in the top 1/8th by sales and he got whacked. White boy, heavily democrat state, no idea of his political leanings/contributions. But it doesn’t make a lot of sense based on sales per se. He must have been doing something right for his customers.

  • avatar
    TonUpBoi

    OK, you want to talk closing dealers vs. congressional districts. While it’s only one and hardly indicative of a trend, I can discuss the one dealership area I know real well: the Johnstown, PA area.

    Johnstown, and the outlying small towns (Somerset, Ligonier, etc.) had about seven permutations of Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep, primarily small single marque family owned dealerships. At the end of this closing, the area will have one: Laurel Chrysler-Jeep-Hyundai (which I assume will also get H.E. Wagner’s Dodge franchise). Now that’s a mass gutting, going from something like seven dealerships down to one.

    The local congressman? John P. “Jack” Murtha. Yep, the guy who’s the current poster child of entitlements, er, pork (I still insist on calling it what is really is). A guy who’s in about the absolute safest seat in the US House – when he goes, so does about 30% of Johnstown’s employment, all brought in on Jack’s pork barrel.

    A nice, easy place to gut the dealships. The congressman doesn’t have to worry about re-election, no matter how angry the voters get over the closings. After all, voting Jack out means the pork goes away.

    Not sure what they’re going to do in about 15 years when Jack goes out in a pine box, due to natural life span.

  • avatar
    yankinwaoz

    Numbers, when tortured enough, will say anything.

    This sounds like flawed logic, a conclusion in search of support. What isn’t said are:

    (1) How much did the surviving dealers contribute?
    (2) How much did the terminated dealers contribute to other (i.e. Democrate) parties?
    (3) WHEN where these contributions made?
    (4) In what context were these contributions made? A local congressman race? A state senator race? The presidential race?

    I think it is safe to say that this “conclusion” is too flawed and has too much bias to be taken seriously.

  • avatar
    marcj

    Yep it’s a vast left-wing conspiracy. Cause you know that all those other auto dealers are Obama-crazy spend-o-crats, right?

    How’s this for logic: places that have been hit the hardest by this recession – and have been the most affected by the general de-industrialization of the US in general – are ones that have tended to go GOP of late. Rural Kansas and Ohio come to mind. With fewer good jobs, there’s less money to spend, and they’re less likely to buy cars, even US made ones. Those dealers are the ones that are the surest to be hurting, and those would be the first to get the ax.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    Johnstown, and the outlying small towns (Somerset, Ligonier, etc.) had about seven permutations of Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep, primarily small single marque family owned dealerships. At the end of this closing, the area will have one: Laurel Chrysler-Jeep-Hyundai (which I assume will also get H.E. Wagner’s Dodge franchise). Now that’s a mass gutting, going from something like seven dealerships down to one.

    You’ll also have McCall Chrysler Dodge Jeep in Ebensburg, 17 miles away. Also Tri-Star Chrysler Dodge Jeep in Indiana PA (Where Jimmy Stewart was from) just 19 miles away. And in Latrobe, 23 miles away, there is Laurel Chrysler Dodge.

  • avatar
    oldyak

    even after all the comments….Someone JUST MIGHT be onto something here!
    This ‘bailout’ is getting scary.
    When politicians are involved in business…..YOU REALLY DON’T THINK THIS KINDA STUFF CANT HAPPEN???
    Wake up or grow up!

  • avatar

    We’d need to know how many Republican dealers were kept on the rolls versus how many were shut down, not to mention the percentage difference of Republican versus Democratic dealers, to find any kind of conspiracy.

    Most of these dealers are probably Republican, because most of them are likely older, upper-class conservative types that worked their way up the ladder through their entrepreneurship. They want somebody that will protect their interests and keep their taxes low, and that would be McCain and the Republicans, not Obama and the Democrats.

  • avatar
    Cynder70

    Political statistics site FiveThirtyEight.com analyzed all the available data and learned that car dealers contribute about 10:1 to Republican candidates. They used a control group and compared it to the known closing group and found that it remained statistically even. There is no conspiracy.

    The link is here.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Nobody does political statistical analysis better than FiveThirtyEight.com. His backstory on wikipedia makes for very interesting reading, and gives another look at how the traditional media is getting trounced on quality by the best of modern bloggers.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FiveThirtyEight.com

  • avatar
    Brian26

    Let me get this right – the Task Force goes to a whole lot of trouble to protect the unions, then uses unidentifiable and (un-articulated)criteria to simply “lop off a chunk” from a group that are statistically opposed to the guy that formed the task force.

    Yeah, I got no problem with that…

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