A South Florida congresswoman says Chrysler's behavior as it moves through bankruptcy is one reason the American public is "fed up" with bailouts.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is among a bipartisan group of eight South Florida members of congress and U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, who have written Chrysler voicing their objection to the closure of Tamiami Chrysler in West Miami-Dade. The Tamiami dealership is being closed as part of Chrysler's bankruptcy reorganization plan, even though it lays claim to being one of the best performing Chrysler dealerships in the country.
"Yes, close the ones that aren't producing, but the ones that are selling cars? It doesn't make any sense," Ros-Lehtinen told CBS4 reporter Gary Nelson. "They're very successful; they've been selling a lot of cars."
Ros-Lehtinen says she and other members of congress have not been able to get straight answers from Chrysler about why it has targeted dealers that she says "don't meet the company's own criteria for those that should be closed."
The Miami-Dade Republican says Chrysler, which has received billions of taxpayer dollars, has done itself no favors by ignoring inquiries from congress and the community. "They got their money and now say they don't have to answer to anybody. That kind of attitude has soured the American public against bailouts. People are fed up, and rightfully so."
As for a reprieve for Tamiami Chrysler or any of the nearly 800 dealers slated for closure, a company spokesman said 'no chance.' Chrysler executive Steve Landry told the Associated Press, "We won't be changing any dealers on the list and we won't be changing the date." The dealers have been ordered to stop operating by the end of business Tuesday.
At Tamiami Chrysler, Alex Planas, whose family has operated the dealership for two decades, said Monday that Chrysler has treated a loyal business partner shabbily through the closure process. "They gave us 26 days notice. After all we've done for them, all the cars we've sold, at the end of the day there's not even a thank you card."
Planas says the family will continue to operate, selling used cars, and possibly hook up with another manufacturer sometime in the future. In the meantime, many employees will have to be let go, assuming a court doesn't intervene in the closure order.
The family's patriarch, Carlos Planas, said it will be difficult having to lay off workers, some of whom have been with him since he opened it 20 years ago. "It is sad to have to say to so many good people, good workers, that someone in Detroit has decided that you no longer exist."
The elder Planas, who came to the United States from Cuba a half century ago, said he remembered getting on the plane to come to America as a little boy. "I asked my mother, 'why do we have to leave?' And she told me, 'because the government has taken our business and our home.'" Planas said the U.S. government has failed him now by sanctioning a Chrysler bankruptcy plan that puts him out of business.