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Robbie Franklin: GM dealership should be fine
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      Several times over the last five years, I have had the pleasure of interviewing Robbie Franklin, owner of the Franklin Automotive Group in Statesboro which consists of Franklin Chevrolet and Franklin Toyota.
       Founded in 1940 by his father, Franklin's Chevrolet dealership has been a perennial top sales producer over the last few decades. In addition, Franklin's Toyota dealership has been presented with Toyota's highest award for the last three years.
       After Friday's announcement that General Motors was informing 1,100 of its 5,969 dealerships that it intends to drop them from its retail sales network, I knew I had to make the call, and frankly, it wasn't one that I looked forward to.
       As always, Franklin took my telephone call in stride answering my questions in a straight forward manner and with his usual candor. I asked Franklin if his dealership had received a "closing" letter, and he replied that they hadn't.
       "To my knowledge, at this time we are fine," he said. "I felt like we should be OK, based on my understanding of what their 'closing' criteria is. Honestly, you never know, I suppose there is always a chance that things won't end up like you hope they will, but for now, things seem okay."
       Franklin said it is true in that you really do receive a letter, and that is how you are notified. "Friday was the first round, and based on what we have been told and what is in the news, there will most likely be another round soon."
       General Motors dealers are not alone as Chrysler informed 789 of its 3,200 dealers this past Thursday that their contracts would be voided. The National Automobile Dealers Association, a prominent national trade organization representing owners of independent car dealerships around the country, vehemently disagrees with the approach two of the big three automobile manufacturers are taking.
       NADA officials argue that the economy will "weed" out underperforming dealers, and forcing closure is not necessary and financially reckless. Franklin said he can understand both sides of the argument, but does feel that General Motors may be doing the right thing in saturated markets.
       "In some areas, there really were too many dealerships, particularly in some of your larger metropolitan areas," he said. "These closings will allow General Motors to focus on those dealers who meet their criteria which will ultimately make those dealerships stronger and better producers overall."
       Franklin said even as little as five years ago, he could not have imagined that dealerships would be closing in mass and General Motors preparing for bankruptcy.
       "I never thought that things would have gotten to this point," he said. "We have had attrition of dealers in the past. There isn't a GM dealer in Waynesboro, Millen, Pembroke, or Glennville. The market can certainly drive a dealership to close, but I guess there was an urgent need to focus on a smaller core of dealerships."
       To reiterate what was reported by the Statesboro Herald last week, the Statesboro Chrysler dealership did not receive a closing letter either. For now, it looks as if our Chevrolet and Chrysler dealerships have been spared.

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