Clovis News

Fresno dealerships unify Chrysler brand

Locally owned Fresno Chrysler Jeep finalized the purchase of the Lithia Dodge of Fresno dealership Monday, a move that will put all of Chrysler's nameplates under one roof in the city.

The deal is part of a broader trend of consolidation at Chrysler and in the auto industry.

The new dealership was scheduled to open today as Fresno Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram. All the nameplates will be sold from the former Lithia location, at Blackstone and Escalon avenues. The longtime Fresno Chrysler property on Blackstone Avenue south of Shaw Avenue is up for lease.

"It gives consumers who are into American products a one-stop shop," said Brian Finegan, Internet sales manager and a member of the family that has owned the Chrysler dealership for 26 years.

The change also puts the Dodge brand under local ownership in Fresno. Lithia is a national, publicly traded company based in Medford, Ore. A company representative declined to comment.

Finegan declined to say how much his dealership paid for the Lithia business.

Lithia stills owns Ford, Hyundai, Mazda, Nissan and Suzuki dealerships in Fresno.

Chrysler Group LLC went into bankruptcy protection last year before being taken over by Fiat Group SpA and also has shed some low-performing dealerships as part of those changes.

Chrysler and other companies are consolidating dealerships across the country, said Mark Rapin, president of the Fresno-Clovis New Car Dealers Association and vice president of Freedom Ford in Fresno.

"All the manufacturers realize that for us to sustain our business, we have to have a bigger base to work from," he said.

Other dealerships selling Chrysler's brands remain in operation in nearby counties.

But the change in Fresno gets rid of competition among dealerships in the same city both selling Chrysler brands, said Fresno Chrysler general sales manager Shafi Shirzad.

Cars like the Dodge Avenger and the Chrysler Sebring are similar, for example. Now, whichever of the two a customer buys, Fresno Chrysler will get the sale, he said.

Rapin said Fresno Chrysler dealership owner Tim Finegan "was doing fine" before the sale.

"But this is an opportunity for him to expand," Rapin said. "His chance now for survival has improved."