UPDATE: Harmon says he will stay in business

Published 11:04 am Friday, May 15, 2009

IRONTON —Frank Harmon has spent 51 years in the automobile industry but says even Chrysler turning its back on him won’t force him to close his doors.

Harmon Motor Sales was one of 47 dealerships in Ohio and among the 789 nationwide that Chrysler revoked its dealer agreement with, but the long-time Ironton businessman said he isn’t going anywhere.

“We are here and we’re not leaving,” Harmon said Friday at his office on Third Street in Ironton, one day after learning he was losing his Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep franchises. “I’ve got my life tied into this business.”

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Harmon and likely hundreds of others of Chrysler’s 3,200 dealerships unceremoniously learned the bad news via the mail Thursday.

Chrysler gave Harmon and others on the cut list until June 9 to liquidate inventory. It will be business as usual as far as incentives and warranties for the next three weeks or so but after that the dealers will not be able to sell new Chrysler products.

“After rejection, we want to work with you to assist in the redistribution of new vehicles and parts to ease the burden on you,” stated the letter from J. Tangeman, national dealer placement manager for Chrysler.

The letter went on to state that Chrysler could not repurchase the new vehicle inventory, special tools or parts that dealers may have in stock, something Harmon said could cost him tens of thousands of dollars.

“I was trying to order cars to help Chrysler out and to keep the assembly lines going,” Harmon said, adding that he has 40 new cars that he will be discounting greatly to sell in the next three weeks. “Now I am stuck with all these cars.”

He said the most frustrating part is how Chrysler has handled the situation. Initially Harmon said he was told that any changes wouldn’t come for several months.

“We’ve stood behind Chrysler for years and years. We bought all their tools,” he said. “… We’re not quitting on Chrysler, they are quitting on us.”

But don’t think that this is the end of the road for Harmon Motor Sales.

The company plans to continue to offer service and parts on Chrysler products. In fact, he said this will just push him to refocus on used cars and growing his successful Honda motorcycles dealership.

Harmon said he would do everything he can to protect his 14 employees who have put their heart and soul into the dealership with him.

“These (people) have been with me forever,” he said.

In the Tri-State, Bill Spurlock Dodge in Huntington, W.Va., and Crown Dodge in Nitro are listed as a dealership that Chrysler has opted to close.

A number of other Ohio small towns could be losing dealerships including Bowling Green, Circleville and Eaton.

Chrysler also wants to close a dealership in the Toledo suburb of Perrysburg where the automaker has a plant that makes steering columns and other parts.

Proposed closings in the northeast part of the state would include dealerships in Elyria, Wadsworth, Parma and Beachwood.