Nicholas Parks, the General Manager for Rogers Dodge of Alvin, sent me this link a few days ago in reference to Chrysler’s bankruptcy and the Fiat partnership.
It is an interesting story for anyone who is following the bankruptcy, so please check it out:

http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB124424451815990495-lMyQjAxMDI5NDA0NjIwNDY0Wj.html

Also, Matt McGuire, a service tech with Rogers Dodge, moonlights as a musician. He created a few snippets of music that we hope to incorporate in our documentary. I hope to have the five wma files uploaded to the blog today for everyone to check out. Matt’s a really gifted musician and we hope to make him a break-out star by sharing his tunes with the world.
As soon as I get these online, I will post them for your listening pleasure.

Tomorrow is the last day for almost 800 Chrysler franchise dealers.

After, these dealers will no longer be able to sell new Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge vehicles. Many parts and service departments will also fall by the waist sides.

At Rogers Dodge of Alvin, many of the salesmen, service and parts techs have already found other jobs. Others will be unemployed; even a few will say “Screw it” altogether and get out of the car business thanks to a bitter taste in their mouths.

I drove by Rogers Dodge this evening, and all the wispy red and white Dodge flags, ram symbols, most new vehicles and anything remotely resembling a Chrysler product are long gone. It reminds me of a ghost town in Arizona where outlaws and cowboys once set up shop. For example, if you drive through Tombstone, Arizona today, you feel an eery shadow of American history that once engulfed the town. However, there is nothing tangible to remind you of what Tombstone once was (unless you read the monument placards in town or have a fondness for Val Kilmer and pasty, tuberculosis-inspiring makeup).

Ok, maybe that analogy is reaching. But basically, the same can be said for the sad, vacant-looking Dodge store in Nolan Ryan’s hometown. Once a vibrant and thriving business abundant with gleaming clear-coated hoods and shiny chrome, Rogers Dodge is now a skeleton business; like something left after a hurricane passed through. (Actually, Hurricane Ike almost wiped out Rogers Dodge in September of last year.)

Truck lovers, Dodge enthusiasts, Car sentimentalists, get the tissues out. It’s closing time.

Apparently, Chrysler excutives are huge liars.

At least, that is the feeling most Rogers Dodge of Alvin employees have about the words spoken by Chrysler President James Press to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transporation committee at the June 3rd hearing.

“They are a bunch of lying sons of bitches,” Wesley Wells, Fleet Sales Manager, said on Wednesday.

With only six days left, employees of Rogers Dodge of Alvin are trying to rid their inventory of all new cars sitting idly on the lot. They must also sell off new mechanical parts, finish up service tickets and be ready to shut down operations as a Dodge dealer by June 9th.

The frustration Rogers Dodge employees have with Mr. Press and Chrysler has a whole has been stirring for a long time. However, tensions reached a new level of highs on Wednesday.

Nicholas Parks, General Manager of Rogers Dodge, along with Wells, the owner of Rogers Dodge, Pete Mankins, and other employees, sat watching the senate hearing on CSPAN3 in the early afternoon. They listened as Mr. Press answered a series of questions by Senate committee members, including Texas Senator, Kay Bailey Hutchison. Mr. Press outlined a series of processes that have been put into effect for closed dealers to utilize which helps them to transfer vehicles and stave off major financial losses

Mr. Press stated that “over 80 percent of affected dealers have a floorplan.” This statement suggests that dealers like Nicholas Parks have already been notified of Chrysler’s intentions to help them sell off new car inventory to dealers that are “moving forward” with Chrysler franchises.

But, is this true?

“We have been contacted, yes, and they said something was put in place to start after June 9th,” Parks said. “But James Press stated at the hearing that they have 97 percent of inventory distributed from the closed dealers and that is a damn lie.”

It’s hard to tell whether Chrysler is mincing words. But closed dealers, like Nicholas Parks, will agree the one good thing that came out of Press’ statements made to the Senate committee yesterday was this… it was recorded, and is now on file for the general public to review and compare with previous statements made.

For the complete hearing webcast, click the following link:

http://commerce.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Hearings.LiveStream&Hearing_id=9716ac30-a07b-4a69-aec2-189ecaf1beee

Please click on the link below and read about General Motors’ bankruptcy beginnings:

http://www.courthousenews.com/2009/06/01/GM_Files_for_Bankruptcy%3B_Chrysler_Sale_Clears_Two_Hurdles.htm

This article discusses a few key issues with the Chrysler bankruptcy, as well.

If anyone has additional links pertinent to the ongoing proceedings, please feel free to leave a comment on our blog.

Thanks, guys.

If anyone is interested in learning more about our documentary, or if anyone wants to learn about the crisis in the auto industry, there are several articles online that we have included as links for your perusal.

Here are just a few:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/columnists/chi-tue-greising-0526-may26,0,28979.column

http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/content/may2009/db20090529_361534.htm?chan=top+news_top+news+index+-+temp_news+%2B+analysis

http://thefacts.com/story.lasso?ewcd=f840e2b049efaf10

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/business/6432416.html

http://www.alvinsun.net/articles/2009/05/15/news/doc4a0dd967f203e601934584.txt

http://www.bizjournals.com/houston/stories/2009/05/18/daily39.html

http://www.autonews.com/article/20090520/ANA05/905209988/1078

http://www.khou.com/news/local/stories/khou090526_tnt_saving-cents-cars.1c0d510a.html

Additionally, this is a podcast interview with Nicholas Parks. Check it out:

http://committedtoromney.com/2009/05/29/committed-to-romney-podcast-8/

Just to let everyone know about our reasons for making this documentary, we want to be objective as possible in looking at the bankruptcy of Chrysler (and soon to be General Motors) and how both companies got there (and how they plan to get out). But, we also want to show the human element of this situation, speaking with families in the business and employees of closing dealerships personally.

We plan to interview as many employees as we can in the next 10 days, starting with the employees of Rogers Dodge of Alvin. However, we will make time to call or film anyone who wants to talk about their personal or professional situation given that there are enough hours in the day to do so. We also plan to continue filming in the months after the June 9th drop dead date for closed dealers in order to understand the after affects of these closings.

If you know someone or are someone who wants to be speak on this issue, we welcome you to contact us on our blog or on Rogers Dodge of Alvin’s website. Our film schedule for the next ten days are hectic, but we will do all we can to have your voice be heard. Additionally, filming will not stop after June 9th; we just want to get as much footage as we can between now and then to show the process of closure and the aftermath of a dealership without a Chrysler franchise.

**Please note:  We have no budget for this film. We are not seeking investors to make the film. If you are a dealer, an employee of a dealership or just a citizen who believes in fighting for something, you are welcome to make donations. For now, donations in the form of check or money order can be made c/o:

Rogers Dodge of Alvin 2616 N. Bypass 35, Alvin, Texas 77511

(If a check or money order is made, please make note on the check/ MO that funds are for “Project Disenfranchised.” None of the funds received as donations will go to business expenses for Rogers Dodge. We are not and will not seek to show favoritism toward one dealership above another.)

All donors will be given special thanks in the credits of our film, and you will know that you have contributed to a piece of history. But please do not feel that you have to make a donation to be a part of this project, however. We welcome your support in any form.

Thanks to everyone who has helped us to get this far. We are extremely grateful to you and your families.

More soon, so stay tuned!

Below is a written statement by the President of Rogers Dodge of Alvin Texas, Nicholas Parks, sent out less than 48 hours after receiving notification from Chrysler, LLC of plans to close his Dodge dealership. 788 other independent dealers also received letters sent by corporate demanding they shut their doors by June 9th, 2009. At the time of receiving this letter, Mr. Parks and others had less than one month to comply with Chrysler’s orders.

Chrysler hand-picked the almost 800 dealers as expendable to the company’s franchise. In doing this (and filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy), Chrysler execs have said it will help the auto manufacturer become a lean, strong corporation that can build cars and trucks that the American public will once again want to buy.

But for the axed dealers and their employees who put time, effort, and life savings into a business built around the Chrysler name, there is no silver lining beyond the tumultuous clouds of the present.

It is because of these people, and their stories, that two friends and I have started making a documentary about “the final days” of Chrysler. We want the American people to really know what is happening in this debacle and to see how politics shapes our lives – for better AND for worse.

As the process continues, we will have video clips available on the blog for you to see and we hope that you will give us honest opinions about the work being done.

We feel this is a story that must be told, not just for the employees of one small-town dealership, but also to understand Chrysler’s future role in the auto industry.

For now, however, let us begin this story with the letter written by President of Rogers Dodge of Alvin, Nicholas Parks:

May 16, 2009

Dear America,

Recently, Chrysler, LLC notified Rogers Dodge, Inc., in Alvin, Texas of their anticipated closing of our dealership.  Chrysler has pled their story quite publicly for several months in support of their request of billions of taxpayer dollars.  This is our story.

We occupy a 3-year old Dodge-designed building for which we paid cash when it was built.  It was appraised at $3,700,000 in 2007.  We qualified as a Five Star dealer for the 2009 calendar year.  We have remained profitable through all of this downturn.  We have in excess of $1,000,000 in working capital in our dealership.  We are selling at or above market share.  We pay $75,000 per year in local property taxes and collect millions of dollars annually in state sales taxes.  We employ 38 Alvin, Texas residents who all pay property tax, sales tax and income tax.
The owner, Mr. Peter Mankins, my uncle, owns 6 other dealerships, and has no liens on any of his properties or franchises.  He has maintained a car dealership in Texarkana, Texas since the late 1960s.  He purchased that dealership from my grandfather, who purchased it from my great-grandfather, who rode shotgun next to his father when he was 9, as they were settling the Oklahoma Territory.  My great-grandfather started in the automotive business in the early 1900s as a motorcycle repairman, which eventually segued into an International Harvester franchise, and, subsequently, a Pontiac franchise.  I have a large family, almost all of which are connected with auto dealerships in one way or another.  I state all of this so that there is no confusion by Chrysler or the bankruptcy court or the US government over whether we are a group of half-committed dealers – we are not short-term auto dealers/we are committed over several generations.  Chrysler and its dealers have been portrayed in the media as regressive small-town morons.  Speaking solely for the dealers, I assure you this is not the case.
In the past year, we have embarked on several creative initiatives in order to remain profitable and out of bankruptcy court.  We have become a very competitive used vehicle internet dealer by patterning ourselves after the most successful used vehicle internet dealers in the country.  Selling more used vehicles than new vehicles is one of the stated criteria upon which Chrysler based their decision to close us.  Would Chrysler have preferred their dealers join them in bankruptcy court?  It was never our desire to allow ourselves to be a burden on the American taxpayers; nor do we plan this in the future.  Selling more used vehicles has enabled us to not only avoid layoffs, but to actually grow our employee population from 25 to 38 during the period of May 2008 to May 2009, a 52 percent increase.  Further, in the first four months of 2009, our new vehicle sales have increased by approximately 50% by employing the same innovative practices within our new vehicle department.  Though Dodge district sales are down by about 50%, our new vehicle sales actually increased comparing April 2008 and April 2009.  In our parts department, we have created one of very few eBay parts stores selling new factory parts.  We have listed in excess of 4,000 Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep factory parts and are by far the largest internet seller of OEM DCJ parts in the world.  This has increased our monthly parts sales by approximately 35% in a short 5 month period.  In our service department, we have recently added an additional service advisor, a service manager, and three additional master technicians, have endeavored to maintain the least expensive oil change in town and, effective this month, extended our service hours to 14 hours per weekday and 10 hours on Saturdays.  We were on track to move to 24-hour/7-day a week service hours by the end of 2009.  Just this month, we hired a graduating University of Houston student as a photographer and videographer.  We began the process of taking studio-quality photographs of our inventory, something which no other auto retailer in the country is doing.  Evidence of our early progress with this can be found in a slideshow on our homepage at http://www.rogersdodge.com/.

When Chrysler needed dealers to purchase inventory so that the factories could keep operating and their employees could retain their paychecks, we complied and ordered 10 months of inventory.  Our interest on inventory swelled from $15,000 monthly to beyond $50,000 monthly.  Effectively, we took pay cuts in order to support Chrysler’s cause.  When Mr. Landry uttered his veiled threat that Chrysler would “remember those who supported us and those who didn’t,” we felt that we had done our part to support Chrysler and its workers.  Now, we realize that we were just supporting our own demise.  Last week, we were given three weeks to dispose of five months of inventory.  In doing so, we anticipate losing in excess of $1 million – we may actually have to inject capital into our business in order to go out of business.  Our $2 million plus in equity in our franchise is now completely worthless.  Further, we now face the very real possibility that our new building will sit empty for months or years until someone is willing to purchase it.
Despite all of this, Chrysler is taking our franchise so that it can be given to our neighbor across the street, Ron Carter Autoland.  Ron Carter Autoland has the local Ford, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Jeep, Pontiac, Buick and GMC franchises.  They occupy a 40 to 50 year old building that does not comply with any manufacturer’s design standards.  They have recently moved their Ford, Chrysler and Jeep franchises into the same building, a violation of their franchise agreements with both Ford and Chrysler.  They have recently cut their service hours, consolidated their used vehicle operations and laid off many employees.  The manager, and a major shareholder, of Ron Carter Autoland is Mr. Cary Wilson, President-elect of the Houston Auto Dealers Association – apparently Mr. Wilson’s political affiliation is very important to Chrysler, the bankruptcy court and the US government.

How exactly does transferring our franchise to our neighbor serve Chrysler’s stated purpose of thinning out dealer numbers?  The franchise will still exist – it will just have a new owner.
Though I am a Washington, DC-educated attorney and former employee of the US Department of Labor and the US Senate and an active advocate of the American way of life, it is difficult for me to view this abrogation of our franchise rights as anything more than a manipulation of US bankruptcy court and law so that Chrysler LLC can transfer wealth between dealers they like and those they dislike, those that have agreed to under-table favors and those that haven’t, and to settle old vendettas.  This is not the purpose of US bankruptcy protection and, surely, it isn’t why the US Treasury has given billions to Chrysler to keep them in business.

This is our story; however, it is, unfortunately, not unique.  Allowing this manipulation of US bankruptcy law will set a precedent that effectively invalidates all state franchise laws.  Though technically a question of law, many of these closings are politically motivated.  Thus, anyone with any interest in retaining the US economic system in its current form must contact their political representatives immediately.  Small businesses will have no legal protections if these closings are allowed to occur.  Rome is burning, America – please wake up.

Nicholas Parks, President

Rogers Dodge, Inc.

Alvin, Texas

RogersDodge.com

**Note:  To read more about Nicholas Parks and his team at Rogers Dodge, or to find out about the ongoing legal battles with Chrysler, please visit

http://www.rogersdodgeofalvin.com/index.htm

There you will find links to other articles, petitions and further comments by Mr. Parks regarding the issues at hand.

Thank you guys, and please stay tuned for new developments in the case and video footage of our documentary!

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