The oldest family-owned Dodge dealership is in danger of being forced to close or sell its operation (Read the entire story on page 14). The store is Tator Dodge in New York.
Of the 25 franchises the Dodge brothers handed out in 1925, Tator is the sole remaining store still owned by its original family.
According to the story, Chuck Tator, the current owner, is fighting Chrysler LLC to stay in business.
We also ran the story in one of our newsletters during the NADA convention last month. Since then, it's garnered attention in the forums section of the viperclub.org website and as of press time, it has generated 13 pages of comments supporting Tator.
Many of his service customers and fellow Viper club members have rallied around him in an effort to save the business. Several people posting in the forum say they have sent letters to Chrysler in support of Tator.
The comments reveal the impact small dealers have in their communities. It will be sad if Tator is not able to hold on.
Of course, there always are two sides to every story, but Tator's situation is similar to that of many dealerships across the country.
Fighting for survival, many of these dealers daily resist manufacturer tactics to drive them out of business, which include ridiculous and ignorant facility requirements, unrealistic sales goals and cumbersome policies that literally steal profits from the store.
The silver-tongued manufacturers like to talk about how dealers are their partners, but their actions often reveal a different mentality.
Add all that to the lousy product some of these dealers have had to sell for several years, and it's a bad deal.
Streamlining the dealer bodies was the big theme for the domestic auto makers at NADA this year. According to conventional wisdom, domestics need to cut the number of stores in order to survive.
There is a real fear that some OEMs may see the current economic environment as an opportunity to step up some of their “requirements” knowing a significant number of their dealers won't be able to comply because of the financial burden. As a result, dealers throw in the towel and leave the business.
Washington D.C.-area dealer Jack Fitzgerald sneers at the concept that fewer dealers means more sales. During a conversation with him at NADA, Fitzgerald argues that nobody has provided clear evidence that having fewer dealers will make a difference.
His solution — builds better vehicles and leave the dealers alone.
We know there are bad dealers — probably more than we care to admit. But market forces or the law will force those folks out of business.
The fact is, OEMs — domestic and import — have to ease up on their dealers and give some breathing room the next couple of years.
Meanwhile, send a letter or e-mail to the folks at Chrysler in support of Tator Dodge. Who knows, you might help save a dealer.