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Rebuild America, buy American



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February 03, 2010
The Fed Ex delivery van pulled up in front of Crandall Chrysler with a special delivery for the owner Jim Crandall. A letter from headquarters, its contents held his future.

Jim signed for the letter and the Fed Ex delivery man nodded thank-you and unceremoniously hopped back in his van and drove off. Jim took a deep breath, walked to his office, closed the door, laid the letter on his desk and said a prayer.

Every Chrysler dealer got a letter. Some would get the horrible and feared news their dealership would be terminated, others would remain dealers. No one knew, no one had an idea if the news would be good or bad. The criteria used to determine their fate was known only by those at headquarters.

Of course as most of you know, the news for Jim and his dealership was good, he was selected to keep full dealership status.

"It was horrible, I really didn't know what to expect, but when I opened the letter and read the news it was a huge relief," Jim told me.

"I knew for the first time in weeks I'd finally be able to get a good night's sleep," he went on to say. "I hope I never have to go through that ordeal again."

These economic times have been especially tough on our auto industry and as the auto industry goes here in Michigan so goes the rest of us. No one has gone untouched, this recession has spared no one.

Jim remains positive for the future, "Things are beginning to return, I see people becoming more optimistic. Chrysler is expected to have a 20 percent increase in sales for 2010 and there are signs some jobs will be coming soon. Recently Chrysler hired 600 engineers to rebuild their ranks. Those are positive signs," he explained to me.

"All domestic car companies have cut costs and they are leaner and more agile. The car companies will turn profits and all monies borrowed will be paid back with interest. A good deal for the American public," he explained.

Jim and his wife Roberta opened their dealership in Imlay City in 1987 and built their current location in 1992. The two met at Central Michigan University and have been married for 32 years. Roberta is a special education consultant for the Port Huron School District.

Since the 7th grade Jim knew he wanted to be in the car industry in some form. He is a third generation Chrysler man, following his father and grandfather in the industry.

"I was in the 7th grade and my Dad was in market training and he took me to one of the conferences. I saw the district managers all smoking cigars and just talking all day long and I thought, this is the job for me," Jim laughs.

Before coming to Imlay City Jim spent 10 years on the road in the sales division of Chrysler.

I asked Jim to explain from his perspective the collapse of the American auto industry.

"I don't see it as an auto industry collapse, I see it as a financial collapse," Jim said.

"The auto industry has always had peaks and valleys, some of them in the past have been terrible cycles and the industry needed financial support. This time the capital just wasn't available, there was no money to lend us. We simply weren't able to borrow our way out of this down market," he told me.

"I believe it was the financial crisis that created the industrial crisis," Jim says.

"Had the car companies been able to get money, I don't think there would have been car company bankruptcies, it would have been a slow period in our economy, but the recession would not have been so deep.

"I give a lot of credit to our government for bailing out the financial institutions when they did, had they not things would be a whole lot worse," Jim continued.

"Sure the legacy costs finally caught up with the domestic car companies, costs their competitors didn't have. But a lot of people don't realize that in this market downturn, Toyota had to borrow $30 billion from their government. This thing got everyone," Jim explained to me.

"The bankruptcy, the dealership cuts, the uncertainty, the tough decisions were all absolutely terrible and I wish it didn't have to happen to anyone, but it did. The end result is Chrysler will survive and so will GM and so will Ford," Jim said.

"American car companies don't have to take a back seat to anyone! We have the largest stable of fuel efficient engines in the world. Our domestic vehicles are world class. It is the best lineup of cars we have ever seen," Jim proudly states.

"For goodness sakes, our V-8 Hemi engine gets mid-20s fuel economy," he stressed.

And for the future?

Jim told me, "The future is here now."

"We have better products at a better price point. Chrysler is putting a lot of pressure on us to improve customer service, classes and training are crucial. Expectations are higher now and it's our job to exceed those expectations," he continues.

"This recession has changed all of our lives," Jim says.

"The best way for the average person to help rebound from this economy is to buy American-profit needs to taxed in the U.S.. If we want to rebuild America, we need to buy American!" Jim concludes.

Email Randy at rjorgensen@pageone-inc.com.

Randy Jorgensen has been with the Tri-City Times since 1980, he lives in Imlay City and is active in many community organizations. Randy enjoys the outdoor sports and travel. His columns are generally of life experiences with a touch of humor.
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