WEIRTON - When David Guglielmo's family began selling Chrysler vehicles on Pennsylvania Avenue nearly 60 years ago, the American auto industry was thriving in much the same way as the former Weirton Steel Corp.
Thursday, Guglielmo, vice president of New City Auto Sales Inc., learned that his Dodge and Jeep franchises may be taken from him as part of Chrysler's bankruptcy filing that could result in 789 company dealerships across the nation losing their franchises on June 9.
"If we lose the Dodge and Jeep franchises, we will stay in business by doubling our used car inventory. ... We will do everything we possibly can to keep the business going and keep all of our employees," Guglielmo said.
Photo by Casey Junkins
David Guglielmo, vice president of New City Auto Sales Inc. on Pennsylvania Avenue in Weirton, may lose his Dodge and Jeep franchises as part of Chrysler’s bankruptcy filing.
Also on the list to lose its Chrysler badge is Pavlik Chevrolet Chrysler on Main Street.
Guglielmo said the Weirton dealerships were targeted because of lagging sales that resulted from poor market conditions.
"With the loss of all the steel jobs in this area, the economy has been especially bad here for some time. ... These things are happening by no fault of the dealers," he said.
But Chrysler officials said in the company's filing that sales are too low at many of the dealerships. Half its dealers account for 90 percent of its sales, and the company is trying to cut poor performers that compete for the same customers.
"This is a difficult day for us and not a day anybody can be prepared for," Chrysler Vice Chairman Jim Press said Thursday.
Guglielmo said he will try to appeal Chrysler's decision to take his franchises, but he is not optimistic about being removed from the list of dealerships to be closed by June 9.
"One agreement Chrysler made with the Obama administration was for the company to eliminate a certain number of dealerships that have seen a decline in sales. ... The Obama administration is forcing this onto Chrysler," he said.
Guglielmo said his dealership sold anywhere between 200 and 300 new vehicles every year in the 1970s and 1980s, when the local steel industry was strong.
"Now, we have been selling anywhere from 75 to 100 new vehicles for the past several years," he said, again citing the difficult economic environment.
With the potential loss of these dealerships, Guglielmo said those with brand-specific warranties on their vehicles may have to drive to Wheeling or Pittsburgh to receive service.
"If we lose our franchises, people will have to drive 30 to 40 miles out of the way to get their vehicles serviced," he said.
But Guglielmo said he will soldier on for as long as he can, even if he loses Chrysler's support.
"It will be 'business as usual,' with or without Chrysler," Guglielmo emphasized.
Dale Gaston, vice president of Pavlik Chevrolet Chrysler, also stressed that his dealership is not closing.
"We have a Chevrolet dealership as well - we will just no longer be able to offer the Chrysler vehicles," he said.
But with General Motors expected to soon announce the closing of about 1,100 dealerships, Gaston knows his company will have to perform as best it can in the interim.
"Obviously, we are very disappointed to lose any of our brands, but we will just keep going with Chevrolet," he added.