Turns out Crown Automotive received a letter last week from General Motors, notifying the Lawrence dealership that it shouldn’t expect to be selling Chevrolets past October 2010.
But Dale Backs continues holding out hopes for a turnaround.
“In the car business, that’s a long time,” said Backs, general manager for Crown Automotive, which also sells Toyotas along South Iowa Street.
Just this past Friday, Backs was characterizing the written communication — received Friday by FedEx — as “not a termination letter,” and one that would leave “the door open for some good news, hopefully.”
But GM officials said that the only letters that went out Friday — to owners of 1,100 or so dealerships — were notifications of plans to let their dealer sales agreements with GM expire.
Dealers can continue selling GM vehicles through October 2010, or otherwise make arrangements to end their GM businesses earlier, either by working with GM to perhaps buy back inventory or making pacts with other dealers chosen to be kept on.
“They should not expect their contracts to continue,” said Susan Garontakos, a GM spokeswoman who handles dealer communications. “They’ll terminate at the end of the current contract. They will expire.”
She acknowledged that while an economic turnaround could arrive, the letters are clear communications of the automaker’s intentions.
“You never know,” Garontakos said Monday. “The economy turns around, who knows? But today, that’s the reality.”
Dale Willey, owner of Dale Willey Automotive, is among those rooting for a turnaround, too. He sells other GM vehicles — Buick, Cadillac, GMC and Pontiac — at 2840 Iowa, and doesn’t like the idea of the government driving decisions about which dealerships remain open or must close.
But he expects GM to seek bankruptcy protection by June 1, the government-imposed deadline for coming up with a viable reorganization plan.
While Willey has not received a letter from GM — a development he described Friday as “great news” — he’s worried about what might happen in bankruptcy court, where a judge could deem dealership agreements null and void.
“Anything can happen,” Willey said. “There’s no planning for it, I’ll tell you that.”
Two years ago, Willey acquired two GM dealerships in Warrensburg, Mo. — one selling Pontiacs and GMCs, the other offering Buicks and Chevrolets — and merged them into a single dealership.
“I would assume that’s what (GM officials) are after in other points,” Willey said.
Willey declined to speculate on what might happen in Lawrence if Crown were to stop selling Chevrolets.
Just last year, Willey completed an expansion of his dealership to accommodate a larger used-car business.
GM has announced plans to drop its Pontiac brand at the end of next year.