Originally Published: May 1, 2009 11:29 p.m.
PRESCOTT - In the wake of the nation's third-largest car manufacturer succumbing to bankruptcy this week, Toby York is feeling optimistic about the fate of his family's Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep dealership.
"Our direct effect of this bankruptcy is pretty much nothing, it's still business as usual," he said. "We're in our 51st year now and we'll certainly be here next year too."
Automotive giant Chrysler filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Thursday, betting its future on a partnership with Italian automaker Fiat to bring more affordable and economical cars to consumers.
Bob Campbell, general sales manager at the Prescott dealership, said the first quarter of 2009 was "great" and the sales staff sold more new cars in April than any month this year.
"This Fiat merger will bring a brand to Chrysler people haven't seen before," he said. "I think having gone through what we've gone through, York Motors will come out stronger than ever before, Chrysler will be the same and we'll continue to be there for the community."
The manufacturer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in New York after some creditors went against federal government pressure to erase Chrysler's debt.
If everything goes as some hope, the company will come out of this within the next month or two with Fiat as the majority owner and the federal government giving Chrysler around $8 billion in additional aid and a backup to its warranties, according to the Associated Press.
Five generations of the York family began working in the local automotive business in 1958, evolving from an AMC, Volkswagen and Jeep dealership in downtown Prescott to the Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep dealership on Prescott Lakes Parkway.
York said Friday in a phone interview that his Chrysler dealership is one of the top 100 dealers for volume, his customer satisfaction scores are in the top 10 percent in the nation and he has the highest customer loyalty rating in the country for all Chrysler dealers.
"That's the kind of thing Chrysler looks at; we're a very stable dealer that they need," he said. "A lot of the time the customers are simply asking, 'Are we going to be here tomorrow?'
"Well absolutely we're going to be here tomorrow; we're one of their top dealers," he said.
York said he has six vehicles that are on the assembly line heading for customer delivery in two weeks.
But York said Chrysler is shutting down all plants temporarily for the next 60 days and that will halt access to them briefly.
"I'm not going to get anything from them for a little while," he said. "After that I don't see any major changes, at least for the next 10 months."
In terms of his employees, York said he has a very "tight-knit" relationship with his 49 employees.
"We talk almost every day about what's going on with the news with Chrysler. They're incredibly strong and just trying to tell our customers everything is OK."
On the credit front, York said Chrysler Financial is shutting down and folding into GMAC Financial Services.
"I think in the long run that's going to be a very good thing for us; it's going to help us open credit lines and make more money available for customers," he said. "We will actually be up and running with GMAC on Wednesday and we expect credit to be flowing just like it always has, very well."
York said he heard that the only dealerships on the chopping block are those that sell fewer than 100 new cars a year and dealerships that don't have all three brands in one place.
"We don't have anything to worry about in either of those," he said.
And York categorizes sales as "incredibly consistent" since November.
"We're running at a pretty strong market share" and really have only seen business level out in this economy, he said, adding that as a result it feels like we've hit "the bottom of the market" and better days are ahead.