I'm driving A BRAND NEW CAR!
Well, at least for three days. It's a loaner while the increasingly beat-up and dirty family van is in the shop getting its annual maintenance check and its not-so-automatic-anymore sliding passenger door fixed. I'm pretty sure that after new brake pads, oil clean and change, filter system and engine cleaning jobs and the as-yet unknown tweaks and fixes that are probably "recommended," I'll be at least $2,000 poorer -- but a lot safer.
But it's a lot cheaper than getting a new or used car.
And that's exactly what's putting America's car dealers out of business. That - and the fact that the auto makers are on their deathbeds.
America's auto dealers - everyone from giants like Cal Worthington's family of dealership groups to small town small frys like Paradise Motors in Moscow, Idaho - are watching businesses they've operated for decades wither and die. But it hasn't happened in the blink of an eye....it's been going on for more than a year now, as this NYTimes blog from last November explains.
As part of its pitch to stave off bankruptcy and get more bailout money, GM is planning to close 2,640 dealerships across the country. As the Detroit Free Press reports today, by May 11th GM will start notifying dealerships nationwide of their "elimination," with the company expecting "attrition and consolidation to force additional closures."
And while this is indicative of the over-expansive "eyes bigger than its stomach" approach to car sales that helped land GM in the predicament that it's in --- it also means that's Detroit's economic nightmare will now stretch into pockets of the country that never expected to be impacted by the self-imposed suicide of America's auto industry. As the Wall Street Journal's John Stoll reports, GM and Chrysler's headaches are being passed down to thousands of already struggling dealers who are left holding the proverbial (air) bag.
Prior to GM's announcement about the massive dealership closures, the National Auto Dealer's Association expected about 900 dealerships to close this year. And, as you can hear in this enlightening and sometimes depressing discussion on NPR's Talk of the Nation, this will vastly change the landscape not only of the car industry, but of small town America -- where the local car dealer USED to be the guy next door.
And although you may be rooting for the come-uppance of those high falutin' auto executives -- it's hard not to feel bad for the family you grew up and went to high school with - and who run the local GM dealership - watch the business they've built up over 40 years come crashing down.
Now the question becomes, as I hang up my cell phone and reel from my $4,000 car repair bill, what happens to all those dealership service centers we take our cars to be fixed. It's enough to drive you crazy.