2009.05.20 It's not quite Carmageddon

Written by David Green.

By RICH FOLEY

 I’m sure that you don’t need me to tell you that General Motors and Chrysler gave the pink slip to nearly 2,000 of their dealers last week, with more to come. Luckily, those retailers in this area have managed to avoid termination so far.

That’s a good thing, as far as I’m concerned. Not only do I have quite a few friends among the ranks of dealership employees, the idea of having to go to some faraway, big-city dealer for service, parts or, hopefully many years in the future, a replacement for my loyal Buick isn’t a prospect I look forward to.

I still have a tough time buying GM and Chrysler’s reasoning for the dealership closures. None of these dealers are costing the company anything, they pay for everything the company sends them. The idea that fewer dealers means less competition for the remaining outlets, allowing them to raise prices, may be nice for the surviving dealers, but isn’t much comfort to customers who will have to travel longer distances to pay higher prices, not to mention the 100,000 or so people this little scheme could put out of work.

Another of the excuses given for dealership closures could backfire on Chrysler and GM big time. We’re always hearing about how Toyota and other foreign automakers have many fewer dealers than the domestic brands. Have they ever considered that abandoning hundreds of smaller towns and leaving empty dealer buildings and unemployed automotive professionals in their wake creates a perfect opportunity for Toyota, Honda and the other companies to move into small town America? Smaller towns they avoided before because of long-entrenched competition will be ripe for a new brand to fill the vacuum.

But enough doom and gloom, some people are still buying cars and others will do anything to sell them. A recent look through the automotive ads found at least one dealer who isn’t picky about who he sells to.

“No credit report,” shouts one ad. “We don’t need your credit report or your divorce papers. Even if you’re ugly, we won’t say no!” They’re even willing to take odd trades: “Push-Pull-Drag-We’ll Take Lawnmowers, Tractors, Diamonds, Motorcycles, Horses, Houses.” Still not sure about your credit? They can’t make it any more clearer than their ad’s tag line: “Unless you have been featured on ‘America’s Most Wanted,’ we can finance you.”

And if that dealer does happen to take in a tractor on trade, there’s an private party seller offering a 1982 Porsche for $2,500 or a tractor. The dealer can sell one car, taking in the tractor on trade, then trade the tractor for the Porsche. Then everybody’s happy, sort of.

Another dealer has a 1965 Ford Galaxie for sale, and I admire his honesty as he admits the car has “Lots of Bondo and rusty frame.” Of course, he still wants $2,800 for it.

A third dealer is advertising a 2008 Chevy Impala for only $9,750. That seems like quite a low price until you read the description and see it has 81,000 miles on it. How do you put 81,000 miles on a year-old car? It’s at a dealership in Muskegon. Do you suppose the previous owner commuted to work in Cleveland?

A person in Charlotte, Mich., has a 2001 Oldsmobile Alero for sale that “had small dash fire.” Before you pass this one by, consider this selling point: “Car doesn’t even stink.” Now you’re ready to buy, aren’t you?

Or maybe you would prefer a 1967 Volkswagen that has been completely torn apart, painted, and has lots of new parts for only $2,000. Wait a minute, there’s one more thing: “Needs to be reassembled,” Maybe we should leave that one to a professional.

Perhaps you’d be better off with a new vehicle. How about a 2009 Dodge Ram Crew Cab pickup, advertised as including “A Hemi with leather for your hiney’s pleasure.” The same dealer has another Dodge Ram with navigation “so you can go back into the woods and rescue your bow-tie buddies.” The guy sounds a little jealous of Chevrolet to me.

And finally, in the “This is a selling point?” department, we have a 1961 Ford Falcon two-door coupe. It has new tires, an AM radio and an automatic transmission, but that’s not why it’s $6,295. No, this little compact supposedly “belonged to Madonna’s dad.” Quick, my checkbook! Just kidding. Actually, I think the chances of someone buying this vehicle are “Borderline.”

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