CNN Executive Producer, "The Row"
The national economic crisis has now hit home for me.
My 1999 Dodge Intrepid has been in the shop at the nearest Chrysler Jeep Dodge dealership, newly opened within the last two years. I've had good service there but now I need a major engine overhaul and the chief mechanic was trying to get Chrysler to pick up the tab for the engine.
I've been driving a rental car for the past 12 days and had started to look for a new car. I decided to return the rental car today because I was afraid I was going to get stuck with that fee, which had just reached $400. I decided to swing by the dealership on the way to get an update on my Intrepid - and maybe pick up a loaner - but couldn't get in.
It was under padlock, shut down by court order. I'm assuming it's gone belly-up, just as a Chevrolet dealership chain in the Atlanta area had a few weeks ago. There was a name and phone number taped on the door for customers to call. I’ve called repeatedly but keep getting one of those recordings about all circuits being busy.
A few men who work in the shop were waiting in the parking lot to talk to the chief mechanic - the same guy I've been dealing with - about their immediate future. Their boss - his name is Mike - had been very busy lately working to expedite his dealer's merger with another Chrysler dealer recently shut down. The mechanics from that place just moved to this place. Now, apparently, they're all out of work. Not sure about Mike.
At this point, I'd just like to get my car back so I can donate it to charity and get a tax deduction. Or I'd be happy to let the bank that apparently foreclosed on the dealership buy it for a reasonable price. It's only got 70,000 miles on it and should not be experiencing engine problems since I religiously have gotten the oil changed on schedule over the years.
I used to cover the auto industry as a reporter and have been following news reports of Detroit's current tribulations with interest and a little concern. General Motors, which is itself hurting in a big way, is talking with Chrysler about a merger. The discussions don't seem to be going anywhere, though, and Chrysler also is talking with Nissan about a partnership of some kind like Nissan already has with the French automaker Renault.
The New York Times story about Kirk Kerkorian pulling his big stake at Ford gave me the shivers. It painted a picture of something approaching a final demise for one or more of Detroit's Big Three.
The auto industry has always been a bellwether of the nation's economy, and it has not been in doldrums this deep in my lifetime. What's to be?
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