Fort Mill Times

Lancaster dealership among Chrysler casualties

Lancaster Dodge Chrysler Jeep is among the 789 dealerships being closed by Chrysler under its bankruptcy restructuring, according to federal court documents filed today.

The Lancaster dealership, which opened in 2003, is the only one in York, Chester or Lancaster counties to be closed, court documents show, but is one of three in the Charlotte area.

A representative from the dealership couldn't immediately be reached.

Chrysler LLC has told a bankruptcy court it plans to eliminate 789 of its dealers - or about 25 percent of them - across the country as part of itsrestructuring process. The move could have a devastating impact on cities across the U.S., costing jobs and tax revenue.

The automaker has about 3,200 dealers but says that's too many. It wants to have stronger, more profitable dealers with better facilities.

Chrysler spokeswoman Kathy Graham says the company will notify specific dealers before commenting publicly. The dealers likely will have a right to appeal to get off the list.

Dean Faile, president of the Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce, said the loss of Lancaster Dodge Chrysler Jeep would leave the county with four other new-inventory dealerships, along with "a handfull" of used car dealerships.

"Our hope would be that they would figure out another option that they could continue (operating). We would hate to see any business close," Faile said. "This is an unfortunate blow."

Still, the announcement brought relief to other local Chrysler dealers.

At Nourse Interstate Automall in Richburg, controller Larry Evans said he received a letter around noon saying his dealership would remain open.

"We just broadcast that over the PA," Evans said. "Everybody's just ecstatic. We were all worried about it."

The closure of the Lancaster dealership should mean more business for Nourse, Evans said.

The dealership has 25 employees, including three who work at a used car lot in Rock Hill.

"We expect to service their customers and pick up their sales market area, because there's no other Chrysler dealer in the area here," he said. "We hate to see another dealer go down, but we're here to fill the void."

Asked whether his dealership would hire any workers from Lancaster Dodge Chrysler Jeep, Evans said that wasn't in the plan.

Kelly Alston, general manager at Stateline Chrysler Jeep Dodge in Fort Mill, declined to comment and referred questions to a corporate representative.

Chrysler plans to shutter at least 11 dealerships in South Carolina.

No dealerships in Lexington and Richland counties are on the list of proposed closures.

But two Midlands dealers, Dick Smith Motors of Aiken, a Chrysler and Jeep store, and Superior Motors, a Jeep store in Orangeburg, are slated to lose their Chrysler corporate franchises. Superior also sells General Motors lines -- Buick, Pontiac and GMC.

The Pee Dee area will be hardest hit, losing four Chrysler dealerships.

The plan calls for the dealerships to close by June 9, but affected stores can appeal to the court.

About 500 people could lose their jobs, based on a study by the National Automobile Dealers Association that found an individual dealership employs 50 people.

The motion was filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York, citing low dealership sales. Chrysler plans to shut down 789 of its 3,200 dealerships.

The motion states just over 50 percent of its dealers account for about 90 percent of the company's U.S. sales. Dealers may appeal the proposal.

Chrysler has received $4 billion in federal loans and has been operating under bankruptcy protection since April 30. Its sales this year are down 46 percent com-pared with the first four months of last year. Chrysler reported a nearly $17 billion net loss for 2008.

Alphabetically, here are the Chrysler dealerships in South Carolina slated for closing, according to court records:

-Dick Smith Motors of Aiken -- Jeep Chrysler.

-Edwards Auto Sales of Walhalla -- Jeep.*

-Floyd Motor Co. of Lake City -- Dodge, Dodge truck, Chrysler and Jeep.

-Hoover Chrysler Jeep of Charleston.

-Hoover Dodge of Charleston.

-Lancaster Dodge Chrysler Jeep of Lancaster.

-Meggs Chrysler Jeep Dodge of Bennettsville.*

-Mullins Motors of Mullins -- Dodge, Dodge truck, Chrysler, Jeep.*

-Raceway Chrysler Jeep Dodge of Hartsville.

-Strom Altman Dodge of North Charleston.

-Superior Motors of Orangeburg.*

*Also sells Ford or General Motors new cars

The (Columbia) State and The Associated Press contributed.

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