Business (almost) as usual for dealers


Doug Wright, owner of Wright?s Inc., says being dropped by Chrysler won?t have much effect on his auto business in Hillsboro. He plans to continue as an independent dealer specializing in used vehicles.

The automobile marketing environment in Hillsboro won?t change noticeably in the near future even though one of its ?Big Three? dealerships received word last week that it was on the list of stores to be dropped by a bankrupt automaker.

That?s what Doug Wright, owner of Wright?s Inc., said after he received notification last Thursday that his dealership was on the list of 16 Chrysler stores in Kansas?nearly 800 nationwide?to be shed by the parent company.

?I?m really in good shape,? Wright said Monday. ?The worst thing that is gong to happen to me is that I?m going to lose my (Chrysler) sign.

?I?ll become an independent dealer, and I predominantly sell used cars in our market area anyway just because of demographics.?

The five employees at Wright?s Inc. will continue as they have been.

?I don?t plan on changing any personnel,? Wright said. ?The guys who are with us do the job, and we plan to take care of the customer. The rest is just continue doing business as usual.?

Good news at Midway

The day after Chrysler announced its shed list, General Motors notified about 1,100 dealers?20 percent of its U.S. network?that they will be dropped by the automaker late next year because their sales are weak.

Midway Motors in Hillsboro was not on the hit list, said Danny Flynn, general manager.

?We didn?t receive a letter,? Flynn said. ?We are moving forward as part of the new GM. We?re excited.?

Flynn said he was fairly confident of that outcome.

?We?ve hit all the goals they?ve set for us, and our customer-satisfaction index has been good, so I figured we?d have a pretty good chance,? Flynn said. ?But it was nice to get the confirmation.

?All the employees here at the dealership have really bought into doing things the right way,? he added. ?So we probably weren?t as worried as we maybe should have been.?

Flynn said the dealership?s plan to build a new facility along U.S. Highway 56 on the city?s northern edge is moving ahead.

?The school district has purchased our (current) facility and we plan to get out of their way,? Flynn said. ?It?s an interesting situation these days.?

Midway Motors employs 20 people in Hillsboro.

Demographic decision

Meanwhile, Wright said he thought small-town demographics put his dealership on Chrysler?s shed list.

?They want stores with certain demographics, a certain look and in certain areas,? he said.

The company?s idea, he said, is that thinning the number of dealerships in the same market area will strengthen the ones that remain.

?What I don?t understand is that there?s 3,200 dealers and they?re cutting 800,? Wright said. ?If they come out with 2,400 dealers, and let?s say the average store sells 200 units?more than double what the average store sells in a month?that?s 500,000 units a month. That?s not enough to keep a manufacturer surviving with their current product line.

?So, there?s something else that?s going to happen yet,? he said.

Wright said shedding dealers like him won?t save the company money because each dealership is financed by the owner, not the automaker.

?I?m sure they think I cost them some sales,? he said. ?But other than that, nothing else because I have to buy everything ?computer support, tools, signage, even your own business cards. They don?t supply you with anything.?

Wright said he already has made arrangements to sell the eight new Chrysler vehicles on his lot to other dealers in the area. He?ll focus on selling used vehicles, most of which he acquires through Internet auctions.

?The cars go there first before they go to live auction,? he said. ?You don?t have to be a Chrysler dealer to do that.?

Some advantages

Wright said not being a dealer with Chrysler may even have some advantages for him.

?There?s a little bit of relief because I?ll spend less time doing the new-car paperwork, which is unbelievable,? he said. ?I sell the cars here, too. So when I?m doing (new-car work), am I really doing that job??

In addition, having used vehicles on the lot means less overhead than having new ones on site. That means he?ll pay significantly less money in interest.

Wright said he?s optimistic about his auto business.

?I?m going to keep on doing business as usual?unless somebody has that wad of money and wants to buys everything,? he said with a smile. ?Everything is for sale. That?s reality.?

Community impact

Hillsboro Mayor Delores Dalke said she was ?extremely happy? with the turn of events.

?Our car dealers have been a great part of our local economy over the years. Not only have they given us convenience and service, they have also contributed highly, both in property taxes and sales taxes, to our community.

?Without them I would hate to see what Hillsboro would be like.?

Dalke said Midway Motors moving ahead with plans to build a new facility in the newly formed Hillsboro Business Park will be an asset for the city ?in many ways.?

?I?m very excited,? she said.

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