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8 DFW Chrysler Dealers Close

By BJ Austin

Dallas, TX – Eight Dallas-Fort Worth Chrysler dealerships were scheduled to close yesterday - the deadline set by the struggling automaker. KERA's BJ Austin says Chrysler is closing 789 dealerships nationwide - part of downsizing and bankruptcy.

Preston Chrysler Jeep in Dallas is one of the Dallas Fort Worth dealerships that turned out the lights and locked the door for the last time yesterday. 60 employees are out of work, and a family owned dealership is no more.

John Gordon and his wife Janet spent much of the day with dealership owner Gary Lau - buying a new Jeep Gran Cherokee.

Gordon: We live in the neighborhood, so we consider them a neighborhood, family dealership. We had heard there were some extremely good deals. Gary, the owner, made us an offer that was just unbelievable. So while we feel bad in a way, that we're kinda like vultures circling, on the other hand it was a good opportunity to buy a car at a very good value.

Lau's family dealership has been on Preston, by Valley View Mall, for about 40 years. Janet Gordon says what's happened is a shame.

Janet Gordon: I think it's tragic, and I think it's uncalled for. There was really no reason for this to happen. It's not one of those things that was inevitable.

Texas has the second highest number of terminated Chrysler dealerships: 50. Pennsylvania has 53. From his car on the road Drew Campbell, President of the Metro Dallas New Car Dealers Association, says these are tough times for the entire industry.

Campbell: The average age for a car on the street today is 9 years. That's the oldest it's been since World War II.

Campbell says there are two dramas being played out here: the closed dealerships and jobs lost; and the open dealerships struggling in the down economy.

At Frank Kent Dodge in Fort Worth, owner Will Churchill says the dealership was doing great - after Chrysler asked him to buy the franchise 18 months ago to turn it around.

Churchill: We picked up market share. We were profitable every month of 2009. We finished #2 in the country in May. We were doing everything right. And then we got the letter, and we were completely stunned.

Chrysler says it took sales, location, market share AND the company's goal to "bundle" Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge into surviving dealerships when deciding who would close.

Also turning out the lights: ElDorado Chrysler-Jeep, McKinney; Grubbs Chrysler-Jeep, Bedford; Huffines Chrysler-Jeep, Denton; Manuel Dodge, Richardson; McNatt Dodge, Denton; and Tommy Manuel Chrysler-Jeep, Arlington.

ACT TWO comes in mid 2010 - when GM plans to close 1100 dealerships nationwide.