Dealerships part of ‘lifeblood of rural America,’ Tester tells auto CEOs

Senator wants GM, Chrysler executives to understand role of rural dealers and suppliers

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Senator Jon Tester is reaching out to the nation’s top auto companies to help them better understand the role of car and truck dealerships in Montana and across rural America.

Tester today wrote the CEOs of both General Motors and Chrysler, expressing his concern about the fate of Montana’s auto dealers and suppliers as both companies work through their historic bankruptcies.

Chrysler recently announced it is ending relationships with four Montana dealerships: Rimrock Chrysler and Underriner Motors in Billings, Flanagan’s Jeep-Eagle in Missoula and the Bell-McCall Company in Hamilton.

GM will also close several dealerships in Montana, but the company has not yet publicly identified them.

“Dealerships are part of the the economic lifeblood of rural America,” Tester wrote GM CEO Fritz Henderson and Chrysler CEO Robert Nardelli.  “I urge you to understand how important rural dealerships are to their respective communities.”

Tester also asked both CEOs not to close any more of the 130 dealerships in Montana, noting that many towns have already been hurt by layoffs and business closures.  Tester has worked to rebuild Montana’s economy by investing in infrastructure upgrades and workforce development.

“I’m willing to bet most of Detroit’s decisionmakers don’t come from rural America,” Tester said.  “So I want to make sure they understand what it means to our small towns when they decide to close a dealership.  Nobody wants another boarded-up business.  We want to work together to help make Montana’s dealers and suppliers viable for the future.”

To date, U.S. auto companies have received more than $80 billion from taxpayers.  GM filed for bankruptcy last week.  Just today, Italian automaker Fiat finalized its purchase of Chrysler in a deal designed to protect American jobs.

Tester today also addressed the issue of dealership closures during a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Capitol Hill.