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Posted May 20, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Edinburg Motors to deal in used cars

unsold Jeeps sit
A row of unsold Jeeps sits on the lot of Edinburg Motors on Tuesday. The dealership will lose the Jeep brand next month and plans to focus on sales and maintenance of used vehicles. Rich Cooley/Daily

Kern in Winchester to fight loss of Jeep

By James Heffernan -- jheffernan@nvdaily.com

EDINBURG -- Edinburg Motors may be losing the Jeep brand, but it's not about to close up shop.

Beginning next month, the dealership will become a "used auto super store," complete with parts and service, according to its management team.

"We're going to run it just like always. We just won't be running the new ones," said owner Houston Miller.

Jeep's corporate parent, Chrysler LLC, has filed a motion in federal bankruptcy court in New York to close 789 of its dealerships in an attempt to bring all three of its brands -- Jeep, Chrysler and Dodge -- under one roof. A judge is expected to rule on the motion June 3.

Edinburg Motors has sold and serviced Jeeps since the brand was bought by American Motors Co. in 1970. But Miller said he understands Chrysler's current position.

"They're trying to cut down on the number of dealers they've got, and we've only got the one brand."

Edinburg Motors will be closing out its remaining Jeep inventory in the coming weeks, Miller said.

In a statement, General Manager Frank Painter said the dealership has been getting calls from customers concerned about it going out of business.

"As a matter of fact, we're going [to] grow from this," he said. "We are going to become a used auto super store."

Painter said Edinburg Motors will be adding to its already large inventory of used vehicles, and the service department will remain open "with the same great sales and service we have been giving since 1962."

Miller said the used car business is slow right now, "but we always keep a good selection of cars and trucks, and most of them have new-car warranties."

Another area Jeep dealer that stands to lose its franchise agreement next month is following a different path.

Kern Motor Co. in Winchester is part of a group of several hundred Chrysler dealers nationwide that are fighting the sale of the automaker's assets to Italy's Fiat Group SpA as a condition of its emergence from Chapter 11. Attorneys for the Committee of Chrysler Affected Dealers filed an objection to the sale on Tuesday.

Rick Kern, president of Kern Motor Co., said Chrysler's dealership realignment plan has nothing to do with the company being in bankruptcy, as dealers' fortunes aren't tied exclusively to the manufacturer.

"We pay for everything," he said. "We buy their products, whether they end up selling or not. We pay for our own training. ... We even have to fix any defects and then get reimbursed at a discount."

If the sale of Chrysler is allowed to go forward, Kern would be forced to sell its Jeep models at "way below cost" -- with Chrysler picking up the difference -- and the dealership would no longer be able to service the brand, he said.

"Don't punish us when we've been a loyal purveyor of the vehicles for a long time," Kern said.

Kern Motor Co. has been a Jeep dealer since 1961. If it were to lose the brand, customers would have to travel to Marlow Motors in Front Royal or Miller Jeep-Eagle in Martinsburg, W.Va.

The ironic thing, Kern said, is that his dealership, which also carries Pontiac and GMC, has had a good month for sales.

General Motors, which announced last week that it is severing ties with 1,100 of its dealerships as it wrestles with the prospect of bankruptcy, has notified Kern that it wants the dealership to continue to represent it, he said.

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