Axed Chrysler Dealer's Smoking Gun

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

Jim Tarbox is not a man who suffers in silence. Since New Chrysler handed his Jeep dealership its walking papers, Tarbox has been a man on a mission. “I was a top performing dealer,” Tarbox told me. “The executives terminated my dealer out of spite.” Tarbox ain’t just whistling Dixie. The video above features audio from U.S. Bankruptcy Court testimony from Peter Grady, Chrysler Director of Dealer Operations. Tarbox’s lawyer, Len Bellavia, confronts Grady re: a letter that says, in no uncertain terms, that New Chrysler shit-canned Tarbox because of a prior territorial beef. “He is a belligerent combative dealer who litigates and protests any new Jeep franchise in the Provo [Providence, Rhode Island] area. So management made decision to cut him. He has not operated in good faith.” Uh, what about selecting dealers to cull based on an objective, performance-related formula? Grady agrees to the idea, in principle. In practice . . .

“You would agree that the decision to reject a dealer should only be on the merits?”

“Yeah,” Grady says. “Like this one was.”

So Chrysler is admitting that it dumped Tarbox based on his attitude and previous litigation, rather than performance. A vendetta. Tarbox may never receive a dime out of this deal, but he’s clear that his protest reflects his belief in fair play. “They stole my livelihood,” he says. “I can’t believe this happened in America.”

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • JSF22 JSF22 on Sep 25, 2009

    Chry(sler) me a river, James Tarbox. Smoking gun? Ha. So what if Chrysler took the opportunity to shitcan him because, by his own admission, he had always challenged everything the factory wanted him to do? Wouldn't any of us, trying to turn Chrysler into a real company, have done the same thing? The best thing about running your own business is you can fire your customers if they aren't worth the trouble. Few corporate executives have that much nerve. I say brooming this guy sounds like one of the few smart things Chrysler did. And as desperate as Chrysler is to move the iron, don't you think there is another side to this story? So Tarbox blew out a lot of Jeeps. For Chrysler to give that up, he must have been a pretty horrid dealer in ways he's not admitting. As far as I'm concerned, Tarbox and all the other dealers busily lobbying the legislators (that they've bought and paid for) to rescind the terminations are just one more group of rich incompetent guys trying to get into my pockets. Drop dead.

  • ChuckR ChuckR on Sep 25, 2009

    CamaroKid It would be interesting to find out if Toyonda, for example, has similar poisonous relationships with some of their dealers. Bet not, but then they didn't try to flood the market with dealers, or cram crap cars down their throats. Kid, come back when you've become a franchisee and pledged your entire net worth, maybe amassed over a couple of decades or more, only to find that your business 'partner' is trying to cut the legs from under you. If you had legal protections, what would you do? Then we can talk about this. And also discuss how you were today taking the side of some of the biggest public bailout rip-off artists ever. disclosure - about 18 years ago, I bought a car from Tarbox Pontiac. Neither sales nor service was particularly memorable so I guess that's good.

  • CamaroKid CamaroKid on Sep 26, 2009
    Neither sales nor service was particularly memorable so I guess that’s good. LOL! So let me get this straight... We are the land of the free, The home of the brave, and the place of "no competition" What would I do? That is a two part question... Well, before I would pledge my entire net worth on a franchise I would actually read the agreement... And if it gave the supplier the right to dump cars, or cut the legs out from under me, etc. I might think twice about the pledge... Or maybe as you suggested I would sell for Honyota. As I posted before apparently Tarbox is not such a good reader or while the cash was rolling in it didn't matter...(probably more of the later) As the old saying goes... One the way up are all capitalists... on the way down we are all socialist. Sure the Bush Bailouts are some of the largest public F'ups ever... but when the economy is on the brink what else are you going to do. I defended them then... I'll defend them now. If Bush hadn't given the money then ALL of the dealers would be broke, as well as the part suppliers, wholesalers, repair shops, etc. Back to Tarbox... (and this is the second part of the answer) Lets say that the supplier started to change the rules and make you miserable. Anyone knows that you don't get into a pissing contest with what is essentially your boss...(bite the hand that feeds you..) You ever take your boss to court? You still work there? Once things got that bad Tarbox should have done what you or I would have done... Quit and moved on; or in their case... Cash out the dealership for a boat load of money and sit on a beach drinking PinaColadas. I ask, who on this forum didn't know 2 maybe even 3 years ago that things were going to end like this... We have been warning about the impending doom of Chyrsler, GM and Ford for years... A smart businessman would have "gotten out" while the gettin was good... If the dealerships around me are any indication... thats what most did... We had several change hands over the past 3 years more time then you change underwear in a week.
  • ChuckR ChuckR on Sep 26, 2009

    Kid Franchise laws protect franchisees. But perversely, I think they also made it easier for the D3 to scrub their books of 'toxic assets' - like Sebrings, for example, by shoveling them out to dealers. Dealers knew that eventually they'd move them and the fact that they were, or felt they were, protected against increased competition while they were dealing with unloading these motorized gems made it easier to take that gamble. If there hadn't been strong franchise protection, then GM and Chryco might possibly have gone BK sooner. Or maybe gone to direct sales (+1). Even if they hadn't added more weakened dealers - and they probably would have tried - the existing dealers may have dug in. Is BK a better solution than the payoffs to the UAW and the carco mismanagers? Yes, airlines have worked through BK and so should have the car companies. You can't cast the manufacturers as champions of free market competition against the commie dealers and state laws. The Feds should have let the BK laws and the market sort it out. Tarbox may have done worse in such as scenario, but it would have been a time tested scenario, not the government motors crap we have been saddled with as taxpayers. And as a commenter upstream commented, the senior debt holders wouldn't have been screwed - which certainly doesn't encourage people to offer credit. I have nothing but contempt for the business skills of the Wall Street masters of the universe and the captains of industry in Detroit and elsewhere, whose motto is 'heads I win, tails you bail me out'. I think we do agree on that. As an aside, you occasionally do get into pissing contests with your 'boss'. Manufacturing is worthless without distribution, sales and support channels. If you outsource these activities, you have partners not employees. Smart companies understand that.