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New car dealers in Harford County are feeling some anxiety about President Barack Obama’s laying down the law for General Motors and Chrysler, forcing both manufacturers to prove they can run viable businesses or face bankruptcy or, in the case of Chrysler, at least, going out of business.

GM has been given a 60-day restructuring period and Chrysler a 30-day restructuring period to show they have what it takes to turn their businesses around.

With GM and Chrysler given one last shot by the feds, local GM and Chrysler dealerships, some which have had franchises for years, find their futures hanging in the balance, even as their own businesses are faring well for the most part.

“Harford County automobile trade business isn’t bad; it’s good,” Ron Adams, who owns three dealerships in the county, said. “Our numbers are very strong in the Maryland market.”

Adams, who owns Adams Suzuki in Fallston, Adams Jeep of Maryland in Aberdeen and Adams Chevrolet in Havre de Grace, said these times make anyone feel uncertain, especially when there are family businesses involved.

“I think what he [Obama] was saying is that GM is a vital part of American industry and he wants to protect that,” he said. “It is still better to have GM than not to have it.”

He said both GM, which manufactures Chevrolet, and Chrysler, maker of Jeep, are making cars that have good value for the money.

“We have got the best product ever built right now,” Adams said.

Adams, who has been in the car business since 1979, is very optimistic about his dealerships surviving.

“We are all working very hard to be profitable and maintain best services and take care of our employees and customers,” Adams said. “At this time I would be foolish to get out of the car business. Harford County and Maryland still need to be provided transportation and repairs.”

Although it is a reality some GM dealers may not survive, Adams has switched his focus to GM’s products.

“Some lines of GM cars may fade out,” he said. “GM strives on some things doing well and other things going away.”

By cutting some poor selling lines, Adams said, the manufacturer can focus on fewer things and not lose strength across the board, which should help its remaining dealer network, as well.

Boyle Buick Pontiac in Abingdon, which has been in operation for more than 30 years, sees GM’s 60-day deadline for restructuring as a step in the right direction.

“We expect the next 60 days to be the beginning of a modest improvement in sales, which will get even better when GM’s completed restructuring plan is announced in 60 days,” President of Boyle Buick Pontiac Chuck Boyle said. Buick and Pontiac are both GM products.

Boyle said the restructuring deadline will focus attention on two very important things: Buick’s reliability rating and GM vehicle warranties backed by the government.

“Recently, Buick tied for first place as the most dependable vehicle brand sold in America,” he said. “It’s great for word of that to get out there in the public. Also, he [Obama] stated that for the first time ever, GM vehicle warranties are now backed by the full faith and credit of the United States. This means people have no reason to fear buying a GM product.”

Boyle said as part of its restructuring, GM has announced Buick will be one of the four pillars on which the new GM will build its foundation.

He said Pontiac will continue to make specialty vehicles that augment the Buick lineup. At present, GM has 14 automotive brands.

“As we look to the future of GM in general, and of Boyle Buick Pontiac in particular, not only do we expect to prosper, but we also anticipate taking advantage of opportunities to add more GM brands to our lineup,” Boyle said.

Rob Cook of Cook Automotive in Aberdeen, which sells Chrysler vehicles, sees the 30-day reconstruction for Chrysler as something to look forward to.

“We all see it as a positive,” Cook said. “It will guarantee the long-term survivability of the company.”

Cook said an expected partnership with Italian automotive giant Fiat offers a great advantage to both parties because it gives Fiat the opportunity to sell cars through an existing franchise and make use of existing plants, and it gives Chrysler vehicles immediately.

“Fiat will produce cars in idle Chrysler factories, which will put Americans back to work,” he said. “In return, we will get cars we badly need that are fuel-efficient world-class vehicles.”

While some dealerships worry their selling days may soon be over, Cook, who has been in business since 1962, hasn’t even considered it. Cook also has a Volkswagen dealerships in Fallston and sells Mazdas at his Aberdeen location.

“That is not even in my thought process,” he said. “This business is profitable. We have been here almost 50 years and I expect to be here another 50 years.”

Even if the partnership with Fiat does not work, Cook said he thinks Chrysler has the resources to make the business work regardless.

“I do believe there will be a domestic automobile industry and Chrysler will be a big part of it,” he said.

The owner of Keene Dodge in Jarrettsville is not as confident about Chrysler’s partnership.

“Since we don’t know the terms of the agreement, we don’t know how that is going to affect us,” David Adams said. “We are not privileged to what corporate decisions are.”

He said Keene Dodge has absolutely no say in the future of Chrysler.

“We are a franchise,” he said. “You have to wait and see what they ask us to do or what the final outcome of their agreement is. You always assume it would benefit the business.”

Although the future of Keene Dodge is a giant question mark, David Adams said business at the Jarrettsville operation has been good.

“Our business has been pretty good,” he said. “It’s as well as can be expected.”


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