Connecticut Chrysler dealership vows to stay open

James Mosher

Chrysler LLC included just one New London County dealership in plans to eliminate about a quarter of its U.S. outlets.

Falvey’s Inc. at 457 Ocean Ave. in New London was on the list released by the Detroit-based automaker said. Chrysler is aiming to shut 789 of 3,200 dealerships by June 9.

But the dealership will not be closing, General Manager Bill Franchini said. Falvey’s will no longer sell new cars in New London, with all new vehicle sales to be done out of its larger Norwich branch. New London will continue to sell and service used cars, Franchini said.

“We’re going to stay open and continue growing what’s become the largest part of our business,” he said, adding used cars currently make up over 80 percent of the New London dealership’s business.

No jobs cuts are planned, Franchini said.     

Timothy Falvey, owner of the New London location, couldn’t be reached for comment. Richard “Rick” Falvey, who is in charge of the store on West Thames Street in Norwich, also couldn’t be reached.

The avoidance of wide-scale turmoil in Eastern Connecticut’s auto market may be short-lived with General Motors Corp. set to notify 1,100 dealers nationally that their franchise agreements won’t be renewed upon expiration in September 2010.

Chrysler dealers were told Thursday morning by United Parcel Service letter of the terminations, according to wire reports. Local survivors are pleased to be staying in business but saddened by the cutbacks.

“We’re happy for ourselves but sorry for them,” said Anthony Troiano, owner of Troiano Chrysler Jeep Dodge on South Main Street in Colchester. “We’re hoping that Chrysler takes care of everybody -- the dealers, the families -- everyone.”

Chrysler, the smallest of Detroit’s Big Three, filed for bankruptcy after the recession, combined with last year’s spike in gas prices and years of competition from imports, dragged the company down. Chrysler has joined General Motors in accepting loans and direction from the Obama administration and Congress. Ford Motor Co. hasn’t taken government loans.

Besides Falvey’s of New London, Chrysler will close Connecticut outlets in Enfield, Middletown, Newtown, Naugatuck, Torrington, and Woodbridge.

Many of the designated dealers’ sales are too low, the automaker said. Just over 50 percent of the dealers account for about 90 percent of the company’s domestic sales, the motion said.

Among the survivors in Eastern Connecticut are Disch Chrysler Jeep Dodge on Ward Avenue in Plainfield and Putnam Chrysler Dodge Jeep on Providence Pike in Putnam.

Peter V. Disch, who also owns a Chevrolet dealership on Main Street in Moosup, couldn’t be reached for comment. Ellis Disch, Peter Disch’s son and vice president of Disch Motor Group, referred inquiries to his father.

Putnam Chrysler’s owner, Kevin Trudeau, also couldn’t be reached. Among Putnam Chrysler’s sister dealerships are Premier Chevrolet on Providence Road in Brooklyn and Gates GMC on Boston Post Road in North Windham.

Troiano views Chrysler’s current troubles as a prelude to a stronger future. The company accepted federal government loans in the early 1980s but emerged strongly under the charismatic leadership of Lee Iacocca. Chrysler repaid those earlier loans with the government earning a profit from interest.

Prompted by current loan conditions, Chrysler has been speaking to Italy’s Fiat SpA about a possibly combining products or merging outright. Bankruptcy proceedings have created a unique situation with the United Auto Workers union gaining a 55 percent ownership stake but just one seat on Chrysler’s board of directors.   

“I think we’ve got a bright future,” said Troiano, who opened his dealership five years ago. “I think we’re going to fill in holes in our product line and be stronger for it.”

Despite last year’s gasoline price increase hysteria, Chrysler’s pickup trucks and minivans have continue to sell well, Troiano said. He called the company’s latest Dodge Ram pickup a “very hot” item.

Norwich Bulletin