New Thing for Chrysler Dealers to Fret Over

Some Chrysler Group dealers are seeing slower sales after DaimlerChrysler AG Chairman Dieter Zetsche indicated the Chrysler unit of the company may be sold.

Some Chrysler Group dealers are seeing slower sales after DaimlerChrysler AG Chairman Dieter Zetsche indicated the Chrysler unit of the company may be sold.

His refusal to rule out that possibility sent shockwaves through the auto industry last month, with the ripple effect reaching Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge dealers such as Carl Galeana of the Galeana Automotive Group.

With dealerships in Florida, South Carolina and Michigan, Galeana says that, after a rough 2006, he was anticipating a “smoother year in 2007.” But “all this talk (about a Chrysler sale) has killed the month of February” from a sales standpoint.

Many of his Michigan customers are Chrysler employees who do not appear to be in a car-buying mood now because of uncertainties about the company's future and theirs.

Galeana's February sales were running 50% of the month before. “I had a pretty good January, and I still think we're going to have a good year,” he says. But news of a possible sale of Chrysler is “not what I expected.”

Chrysler Group CEO Tom LaSorda is trying to quell dealers' concerns.

He sent them a Feb. 21 email saying: “When you look at our plans for new products and new powertrains, I simply ask this: Do these sound like the actions of a company uncertain about its future?”

Dealer Aaron Zeigler, of the Harold Zeigler Automotive Group in Michigan, is not overly concerned.

“We've been through it before,” he says. “The first time we bought a Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep store, the company was sold to Daimler six months later.”

Galeana, too, is taking it in stride. He says, “At the end of the day certain things are out of your control. All you can do is ride the wave and hope it's the right wave.”

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