Several area auto dealerships close in 2009, an analyst and the National Automobile Dealers Association predict closures will continue in 2010

The new McDonald Chevrolet reopened earlier this month in the former Joseph Chevrolet store in Millington Township. This was one of the few bright spots in a year of concession closures in the greater Genesee County and Great Lakes Bay area.

GENESEA COUNTY, Michigan –

Fewer car dealerships mean less choice for consumers looking to purchase a new vehicle in 2010.

Some dealerships in Genesee County and the Great Lakes Bay area closed their doors for good in 2009, victims of a sour economy, dealer financing problems, Chrysler cutting dealerships, and General Motors Co. shutting down. gradually brands and reducing its own dealer network.

The year saw the closure of area dealerships including Joseph Pontiac in Fenton, Zehnder Chevrolet in Frankenmuth, Dunlop Pontiac in Bay City, Saturn of Flint in Flint Township, Victor George Chevrolet in Mayfield Township in County de Lapeer and Victor George Chrysler Jeep in the township of Grand Blanc. Joseph Pontiac and Zehnder Chevrolet both had vehicles seized by GMAC.

Clio Ford’s land in Vienna Township along I-75 is now vacant after Delehanty Pontiac in Flushing bought the company. Delehanty Pontiac, like other stand-alone Pontiac stores, found itself unbranded after General Motors announced last spring that it would phase out Pontiac by the end of 2010.

And Pete Serra, who owned Saturn of Flint and Saturn of Saginaw, moved some Saturn of Flint employees to his Kochville Township dealership in Saginaw County, which remains open as Team Serra Sales and Service, a company used car sales and service.

Faced with the loss of brands, some dealers like Serra transform their lots into used cars and service centers. Others are still waiting for business decisions on calls to stay open.

Nationwide, it is estimated that 1,700 new auto dealerships will close in 2009, a higher number than during the 1980 recession, said Paul Taylor, chief economist of the National Automobile Dealers Association.

The concessionaires contribute significantly to local communities and employ many people in well-paying jobs, according to the association. The average employee of a new Michigan dealership in 2008 earned more than $ 52,000 per year, although the 2009 recession likely lowered commission-based income.

Taylor expects a brighter 2010 for new vehicle sales and expects the net rate of closings to moderate in 2010, although the numbers are still “substantial.”

“We expect sales to increase by over 15% next year, but that’s not the volume many of these dealers had when they sold over 16 million units (per year ), ”Taylor said.

In the greater Genesee County area, a few bright spots for car sales emerged at the end of the year.

The McDonald Auto Group, owner of McDonald Pontiac Cadillac GMC in Saginaw Township, recently purchased the old Chevrolet Chevrolet on State Road in Millington Township in Tuscola County.

Joseph Chevrolet had been reduced to a reduced team after owner Joe Hood had problems with his Joseph Pontiac dealership in Fenton. Hood said this fall he owed GMAC about $ 7 million and has since filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for the closed dealership.

The Millington Township dealership reopened earlier this month as McDonald Chevrolet.

“Rather than being an empty building with no people employed, it will employ around 18-20 people to start,” said Bob Worth, Millington Township Supervisor.

McDonald Pontiac Cadillac GMC spokesperson Jeff Simonton said they are looking to expand and have hired a number of former Joseph Chevrolet employees and hope to reopen the Millington Township store body shop.

“This store has a very dedicated customer base,” said Simonton. “People over there bought seven, eight, 12 cars from the same store. There is something very valuable about keeping their business and not disappointing them.

Kia of Grand Blanc opened as part of the Al Serra Auto Plaza in Grand Blanc Township, just south of the Al Serra Buick-Pontiac-GMC showroom. It is the only Kia dealership within a 30 mile radius and owner Joe Serra said as GM is phasing out some of its brands, there is a need to diversify.

“We’ve had brands that aren’t with us anymore… so we’re just trying to add as many as possible,” Serra told the Flint Journal earlier this month.

Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst at Edmunds.com, a consumer car buying website, also expects a number of dealerships to close next year with the official shutdown of Pontiac and Saturn.

“There aren’t many of these cars left,” she said. “If you are looking for one of these vehicles, you have to act quickly. “

And there is also some concern for Hummer and Saab dealers (including a Saab Trio Motors in Burton) as GM tries to sell the brands.

Edmunds.com predicts that consumers will buy 11.5 million cars and trucks in the United States in 2010, up from 10.3 million new cars bought in 2009.

Now might be a good time to buy, Caldwell said.

“December is seasonally a good buying month and this year there are definitely a lot of opportunities to get a good deal on a car,” Caldwell said, adding that GM, for example, offers zero percent financing. for 72 months on certain vehicles until January 4.


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