DaimlerChrysler Corp.'s three stand-alone Plymouth dealers aren't the only retailers unsure about their future in the wake of the announ-cement that the Plymouth brand will be dropped at the end of 2001.
Two Plymouth stores in Pennsylvania and one in Nebraska will lose their only line of vehicles. DaimlerChrysler President James P. Holden promises to "take care" of those dealers.
A published report quotes one of them, Eric Eberhardt of Theo Eberhardt Plymouth in Whitehall, PA, as being in "shock" at the announcement.
Joseph Bennett of Bennett North-ampton Plymouth in Northampton, PA, takes Mr. Hol-den at his word. "I'm sure the powers that be are certainly going to keep my best interests as well as theirs in mind as we go forward," says Mr. Bennett in USA Today.
Although there are only three stand-alone Plymouth stores, there are many more that sell just Chrysler and Plymouth. Retailers with Dodge and Jeep franchises have other vehicles to make up for a lack of Plymouths.
If Dodge gets the sole rights to sell Neon, for example, that leaves Chrysler dealers with vehicles priced starting at $16,000 or $17,000. That situation would drastically impact Dave Renaud's business. Mr. Renaud owns Manchester Chrysler-Plymouth in Vernon, CT.
"Neon accounts for 25% of our new-car sales," Mr. Renaud tells Ward's Dealer Business. "That's a huge segment of people that won't be coming to our doors."
He notes that Daimler-Chrysler's story has been altered since rumors of Plymouth's demise first surfaced.
"First they told us that there would be a Chrysler Neon and now there's no mention of it," he says. "One wonders if we're getting all the information from the factory."
What is known is that DaimlerChrysler will phase out the Plymouth brand between now and the end of 2001.
Plymouth Neon and Prowler production will be discontinued after the '01 model year. Plymouth Breeze output will be wrapped up at the end of 1999. Plymouth Voyager and Grand Voyager minivans will get Chrysler badges. DCC will add content and hike prices of the two minivans to reflect their new status as Chryslers.
"This eliminates often overlapping Plymouth brand models, and further focuses all our brands," says Mr. Holden.
Plymouth's best year was 1973 when it had some 750,000 sales. Through October of this year, sales totaled 235,252, down 9.2% from year-ago figures.
Mr. Holden insists that dropping the Plymouth name is part of a growth strategy, rather than one of entr- enchment. Without giving specifics, Mr. Holden adds that dropping Plymouth will provide significant savings. "This move is all about more money to our bottom line and our dealers' bottom line," he says.