Local dealers express optimism about plans for auto industry

General Motors and Chrysler car dealers in Lawrence are optimistic about President Barack Obama’s plans for the troubled automakers.

News that Italian automaker Fiat is forming an alliance with Chrysler pleased Junior Brubeck, owner of Jim Clark Motors, 2121 W. 29th Terrace.

“That doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of work to do, but it gives us the opportunity to go about our business in the next 30 days while they work out the details,” Brubeck said.

A flurry of announcements about the auto industry on Monday should mean that the industry is heading in the right direction and it should now move faster, according to Brubeck and Miles Schnaer, owner of Crown Automotive, 3400 Iowa, which sells Chevrolets — a GM brand — Scions and Toyotas.

At the same time, Schnaer said he dislikes the need for the federal government to have to tell the car industries’ leaders how to run their businesses, referring to the 30- and 60-day ultimatums Obama gave Chrysler and GM to get their financial viability plans together. Schnaer, however, was also critical of GM.

“This didn’t happen overnight,” he said of the GM’s problems. “They (GM) should have scaled back years ago and they would have been in a profitable situation. That’s my opinion, that this has been coming on for some time.”

Schnaer also said GM should have developed a better recovery plan more quickly to present to the government.

Brubeck noted that the government has promised customers it will back new car warranties issued by both GM and Chrysler, and that should boost consumer confidence.

Customer interest and sales of new cars improved over the winter, Brubeck and Schnaer said. Both said they were doing better than last year at this time.

“There’s a lot of pent-up demand out there,” Schnaer said.

Incentives that include 0 percent interest rates also have helped, Brubeck said.