Most Richmond area GM dealers appear safe

By Andy Jenks - bio | email

Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The ax is falling at General Motors dealers nationwide. But figuring out which ones are affected locally is largely a secret.

There are 17 GM dealers in the Richmond area. After several hours of calling and driving around, we made contact with 12 of them. And no one's heard, or, admitted if they're getting cut. If they do know, there's a reason to keep it quiet.

Across the country, 1100 "under performing" dealerships received a letter Friday. It reads, their relationship with General Motors will end by October of 2010, as the automaker tries to become a leaner, more profitable company.

That's 40% of GM stores. But they sell just 7% of GM's vehicles including Chevy, Buick, GMC, and Pontiac among other brands.

Ted Linhart of Dominion Auto Group was not among them.

"I think our employees and our team have done everything we can to be good stewards of General Motors products," Linhart said.

Dominion Auto has seven GM franchises, all of which appeared safe. And the boss understands why other dealers, would want to keep quiet for now.

"Customers might feel that, given that we're right here in Richmond we've been through LandAmerica, Genworth. We've been through Circuit City, that 'Oh My God', you know, perhaps it's not safe to do business with these firms," Linhart said.

The news comes just a day after Chrysler cut off nearly 800 dealers, including two in the Richmond area. A major blow not just to the automakers, but to local economies.

"With Chrysler and GM both, we've calculated that between 3500 and 4000 jobs will be impacted statewide," said Don Hall of the Virginia Auto Dealers Association.

Dealers that appear to be safe now await further changes. Including possible consolidation with the other dealers, who are done with GM by October of next year.

"The last eight months have been very, very stressful for both our employees and customers. I'm glad to see this process coming to an end here in the next couple of weeks," Linhart said.

This is not the last time we'll hear about General Motors or its local dealerships. All of this will change, if GM decides to file for bankruptcy protection. And a decision on that is expected to happen by the end of this month.

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