Surviving the cut

| 22 Feb 2012 | 08:34

    Car dealers navigate new roads, By Ginny Raue It’s been said that when a door closes, a window opens. That may prove to be true as it relates to the car dealerships left standing after the axe fell last week on 789 Chrysler and 1,100 General Motors dealers nationwide. Bill Snouffer, general manager of Franklin Sussex Auto Mall in Sussex — a Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge dealer — was well aware that closings were imminent. “I wasn’t personally concerned. My dealership is currently the second largest volume-selling dealer in the northeast,” he said. Snouffer’s dealership has also won Dealer of the Year in the northeast for the last three years. Those attributes, he believes, kept him off the hit list. Snouffer thinks they’ve been “over-dealered” and that a consolidation process was past due. He said there are just not enough consumers in the region to support so many dealers. “If you have a strong dealer body, if you’re profitable, you can advertise more and promote the product. Weaker dealers cannot afford that,” Snouffer said. While the bankruptcy and closings may have affected the public’s perception, Snouffer said they have sufficient inventory to get through this period and he believes that Chrysler plans to come out on the other side of this turmoil as a stronger company. For the last three years, he said, they have been caught up in an economic tornado, Snouffer’s plan is to “keep offering good deals.” He looks forward to Fiat coming on board. Snouffer reported that Chrysler is not obligated to purchase back inventory from the dealers who are being shuttered. However, he believes the company and existing dealers will try to help by picking up some of the inventory. In Snouffer’s opinion the government is doing the right thing by bailing out the auto industry since it affects so many people across the United States. “I think they should monitor what goes on and there should be limited government involvement,” he said. “I have 70 employees who count on me. It’s important that we have a business that helps them provide for their families,” Snouffer said. Sean McGuire, who along with his brother, owns McGuire Chevrolet Cadillac in Newton reported that business has been good in the pre-owned department, but there’s been a decrease in new car sales. His dealership will remain open and he likes to look to the bright side. “I’m very optimistic about the future, although if you watch the news some of that optimism gets sapped away,” he said. McGuire said that people no longer buy new cars on a whim, but business does go on as leases end and old cars must be replaced. The new Camaro is expected to liven up their product line, even in this tough economy. All dealers knew the closure letter was looming, and he had some concerns. But dealing in GM’s two strongest brands, and being recently voted “Sussex County Favorite New Car Dealer,” gave them an edge. Their only weakness, he believes, is their location and the possibility exists that GM will now encourage them to enlarge their facility. Their location in downtown Newton’s historic district may present a problem. The town, he said, is very pro-business, but it is an historic district and there are limitations. “We just don’t know what GM is going to expect of their dealers going forward but more will be expected,” he said. McGuire has 35 employees and he values their dedication to the business. “I am very confident in the future of General Motors, but it will be a different General Motors than what you see today,” he said. While General Motors is not in bankruptcy, Sean McGuire of McGuire Chevrolet Cadillac believes that they’ve just had too many dealers, some had to go — and no one was about to raise their hand and volunteer.