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Simms Chevrolet set for next battle

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December 09, 2009 - Ortonville-Larry Simms is set to fight on.

On June 1, Simms Chevrolet was notified by General Motors that a contract would not be renewed for 2010. Typically, new vehicles would begin arriving on dealers' lots in August for the next calendar year—a given for owner Larry Simms after purchasing the dealership in 1992 from Owen Chevrolet, which opened the M-15 location in 1979.

"There's a very good chance we can appeal for a second time GM's decision," said Simms.

"While not confirmed, GM may open some of the rural dealerships. We are looking for community support to get this done—that information will be passed on to General Motors. Keeping a GM dealership in Ortonville is important to this community."

Simms said a Web site will be active within a week for those interested in posting their comments, regarding the issue.

"People can express what they like about a small town dealership—or say what they might not find in a big dealership.That information will be passed on to the third party working with GM and dealers that will make the decision."

Simms' latest chances of surviving as a dealership hinges on a Dec. 3 announcement from both General Motors and Chrysler to reconsider decisions to close thousands of dealerships as part of a deal aimed to hold off federal legislation requiring both automakers to keep showroom doors open across the country.

Automakers claim the closures are necessary to save cash and assure the remaining dealers sell enough vehicles to stay profitable and offer good customer service. Having fewer dealers also gives the automakers more pricing power and helps resale values, according to GM.

The new plans include face-to-face reviews with dealerships and offers of binding arbitration with those who face closure of their showrooms. The largest U.S. automaker also said it would be more transparent about how it picked the dealers that will close.

Simms Chevrolet expanded in 2005 by adding a new front section, a refurbished showroom, service greeting area, quick-lube and children's play area. The two-story addition grew the current facility to about 55,000 square feet. Upgrades to offices and an addition to the employee lunch area were also part of the project.

The decision by GM to close dealerships comes after a restructuring plan was submitted to the government last February, which included slashing the number of dealers nationwide by 42 percent before the end of 2010. According to GM, several factors went into whether to discontinue dealerships, including total number of vehicles sold, the penetration of vehicles sold from a dealership, profitability and if another dealership is pumping vehicles into a specific area.

Simms, who has not been able to purchase GM cars from the factory since the 2010 vehicles where released in September, explained that currently there are five Chevrolet stores within a 20-mile radius of his township location.

"GM has as an excellent product, but struggles with its image," said Simms. "The ride and drive of the GM product is excellent—the repair is next to nothing, the fit and finish is outstanding. The national media likes to bash GM. We here in Southeastern Michigan know how important GM is to the country. It's the national guys that won't give them a break. Our service, including the body shop, repairs and warranty work, continues. We still have several options, including selling just pre-owned vehicles."

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