Even with a government-mandated arbitration process in place, the battle between Chrysler and its 789 culled dealers is a low-down, dirty dogfight. Last week, Chrysler sent out letters to all of its rejected dealers, in its attempt to comply with the arbitration law’s disclosure requirements. But, dealers tell Automotive News [sub], those letters are justifications, but not explanations. Absent concrete evidence for why their franchises were closed (something GM has provided to its culled dealers), lawyers for some 65 rejected dealers are fighting back.
If you haven’t been following the drama surrounding the effort to restore dealers culled during GM and Chrysler’s bankruptcy, you might need to be brought up to speed. In essence both the cut dealers and the automakers have agreed to send create an arbitration process by which dealers could have the decision to cut their franchise reviewed by a neutral third party. The remaining conflict is over the criteria arbitrators should use to judge dealer viability, as the GM and Chrysler proposition would have forced arbitrators to use the same criteria GM and Chrysler did in the initial cuts. That would obviously have yielded the same results as the initial cull, so the dealers pushed for a set of criteria that is more favorable to their interests. Automotive News [sub] reports that a compromise has been reached in conference committee that would allow dealers to present “any relevant information” to make their case. That bill is now been approved by the House [sub] and is headed to the Senate, where its passage is “virtually assured.” But despite having all but guaranteed an independent review, culled dealers still aren’t happy.
As soon as GM and Chrysler agreed to review their dealer cull decisions, the culled dealers in question began complaining that the review would not improve their situations. According to the aggrieved dealers, the new review would be based on the same allegedly flawed data as the initial cull, meaning nothing would be changed. By GM’s own admission, only 39-51 of the over 1,000 dealers cut would even stand a chance at reinstatement. Now, Automotive News [sub] reports that a new measure has passed the House of Representatives which would allow dealers to “present any kind of relevant information during the arbitration.” The measure comes in the form of an amendment to the House Financial Services bill, which is headed to a conference committee in which House and Senate leaders must arrive at a compromise in order to send the bill to President Obama.
The recent revelation that congresspeople have been successful in coercing GM to rescind dealer closures in their districts, has the rest of our elected representatives (not to mention GM itself) sitting up and taking notice. In a conference call with Michigan’s congressional delegation, Fritz Henderson said GM was close to a deal which would restore a number of “mistakenly” closed dealerships. But GM hasn’t met with rejected dealers in weeks, and the Committee To Restore Dealer Rights is unaware of any such agreement. “[Henderson] was very vague, and the plan sounded inadequate to me,” Michigan Republican Hoekstra tells Automotive News [sub]. “He explained, for instance, that they might reopen some franchises if they found errors, but he didn’t say what those errors might be.” Henderson also rejected the dealer demand for compensation of $3,000 per vehicle sold in 2006, 2007 and 2008, further supporting suspicions that GM doesn’t have a deal at all. So what is happening?
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