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Local GM dealers say they dodged termination plan; 1 received a letter he says isn't lethal

Three Jackson County General Motors Corp. dealers said they were not among the 1,124 retailers who received termination letters from GM on Friday.

A fourth said he received a letter from the Detroit automaker, but it wasn't a termination notice.

Owners at Airport Chevrolet, Dollar GMC and Town & Country Chevrolet said they heard nothing from GM.

John Skinner, owner of Skinner Buick Cadillac said his firm received a letter via FedEx, but said there was no reference to termination. GM said the termination letters were delivered by FedEx.

"The letter just asked for information about how we planned to increase sales and what plans we had for our facility," Skinner said. "They wanted the information by the end of the month."

General Motors plans to pare its 5,969 dealerships to between 3,600 and 4,000 by the end of 2010.

Skinner said the dealership started by his grandfather was just off the targeted number of sales last year and said that was largely due to work along Highway 99 and South Medford freeway interchange construction.

"Our service department was shut down for almost two months," said Skinner, adding customer satisfaction at the dealership ranks in the 87th percentile nationally.

Allen DeBoer of Town & Country Chevrolet in Ashland said Oregon law prevents an automaker from terminating franchises, unless it's in bankruptcy. That however, is a likely scenario after GM Chief Executive Fritz Henderson indicated this week Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection is "probable."

Dave Mills of Dollar GMC said GM delivered only one type of letter to dealers on Friday.

"You did not want to see the FedEx man today," he said. "Essentially, it said they are moving forward without you."

Mills predicted GM would follow Chrysler's lead into bankruptcy.

"It will probably be a real quick dip, where they clean house and come back," Mills said. "I can't speak for everyone, but my stores are doing extremely well and they are all profitable."

Oregon Automobile Dealers Association Executive Vice President Greg Remensperger Friday asked members receiving cancellation letters to notify the association.

"I have spoken with several Oregon dealerships that received the letter today and can tell you, they are not the smaller, nonperforming dealers that were indicated from General Motors," Remensperger wrote. "Unlike Chrysler, the list of dealers will not be publicized, there is an appeals process that takes place (and) contracts will remain until the end of the fourth quarter 2010."

He said that the OADA has established a legal defense fund to assist GM dealers.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail business@mailtribune.com.