Chrysler cutbacks followed by local dealership sales

Tuesday, August 19, 2008 at 2:07am

A month after Chrysler announced plans to slash another 1,000 jobs, two of its local dealerships have changed hands.

Southeast Automotive, through affiliated entities, late last month bought Hansen Chrysler & Jeep on Charlotte Avenue downtown as well as Music City Dodge on Murfreesboro Road for a combined $3.2 million.

Southeast GM Joey Huffings said the company will use its current Nolensville Road location and the Murfreesboro Road dealership as interim retail and service centers while it renovates the Charlotte site just west of the state Capitol. That location will eventually house Southeast’s entire enterprise, but Huffings said it’s too early to talk about a date or that transition.

Asked why the sale was made, Chrysler’s attorney, Sally Rutledge, said the properties were no longer needed.

“Chrysler’s taking a new direction,” she said.

Poor sales across the board are driving a wide array of cost-cutting for the auto giant, which lost $1.6 billion last year and was acquired by private-equity group Cerberus. In February, the company said it would trim its dealer network to focus on locations that sell all three of its Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep brands.

Chrysler officials also are moving ahead with other job cuts and aggressive new incentives like the $2.99 gas initiative. But the company’s U.S. July sales were down 29 percent from a year ago. June had been an equally dismal month, with sales down 35 percent from 2007.

The company, which also stopped leasing vehicles at end of July, has eliminated 29,000 jobs since February 2007.

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