House bill aims to restore GM, Chrysler dealers

Palmer Chrysler Jeep Dodge on the west side closed last month as part of Chrysler LLC’s bankruptcy reorganization.
But the dealership would sell the company’s cars once more given the chance.

“We would do it again,
yes,” said Garry Huffman, a partner in the Palmer dealership that had sold Chrysler vehicles since 1956.

There’s
a slim chance he’ll get it. The U.S. House of Representatives yesterday approved a plan to force Chrysler and General
Motors Co. to restore agreements with dealers shed during their bankruptcy proceedings.

The provision, part of
a spending bill that passed 219 to 208, would require the automakers to restore franchise agreements with thousands of dealers
as a condition of receiving federal aid.

Final approval faces many obstacles, however. Senate leaders have said
the issue is not on the top of their agendas, and the Obama administration said yesterday it “strongly opposes”
the plan. Both Chrysler and GM oppose the plan as well and are urging legislators to reject it.

Palmer closed
its Dodge dealership on Pike Plaza Road and turned to used cars to fill the void at its location on East 96th Street. A Hyundai
dealership at 38th Street and Lafayette Road remains open.

Huffman acknowledged the plan’s murky prospects
but credits representatives for “trying to right a terrible wrong.”

Chrysler alGene Beltz Shadeland Dodgeso terminated the franchise
of on the east side, which opened in 1970. Owner Kevin Beltz considers that chapter of his life
finished and is uninterested in returning to the Chrysler team, if given the opportunity.

He’s converted
the dealership to Gene Beltz Shadeland Automotive, a used-car lot.

“You can sit around and mope and cry,
or you can go on,” he said.

Italy’s Fiat is the new owner of the bulk of Chrysler’s assets, closing
a deal June 10 that saved the troubled automaker from liquidation. The deal clears the way for a new, leaner Chrysler to emerge
from bankruptcy protection minus billions of dollars in debt, 789 underperforming dealerships and burdensome labor costs that
nearly sank the automaker.

A bankruptcy judge on July 6 allowed GM to sell the bulk of its assets to a new company,
clearing the way for that automaker to also emerge from bankruptcy protection.

Overall, GM aims to cut about 40
percent of its 6,000-dealer network by the end of 2010 in hopes of returning the company to profitability. Unlike Chrysler,
which released a list of dealers it terminated, GM is keeping its list secret.

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