Windham Motors OK for now

Published 7:44 pm Saturday, May 16, 2009

For Windham Motors on U.S. Highway 80 East in Demopolis, no news is certainly good news.

General Motors sent letters via FedEx out to 1,100 of its dealers nationwide that it was dropping, stating that dealers had been judged on sales, customer service scores, location of facilities and other criteria. GM sent the letters to about 20 percent of its dealers which the company said made only 7 percent of its sales.

As of late Friday, Windham Motors had not received that letter.

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“According to what little we know, if you didn’t get a letter, you’re safe,” said Al Windham, the owner and operator of Windham Motors, “and we did not get a letter.

“We’re open for business, and we’re not going to slow down. We’ve been here for a long time, and will be here for a long time to come.”

What may have helped Windham is its location, being the only car dealership in a 40-mile radius. While GM doesn’t own its dealers, the company said the network was too big, causing dealers to compete with each other often within the same city. A 98-year-old dealership in Cleveland was one that got the letter on Friday.

While industry analysts said General Motors Corp. is making cuts now in preparation for a bankruptcy filing on June 1, the company said it would prefer to restructure its business out of court.

GM outlined a plan to cut about 40 percent of its 6,000-dealer network by the end of 2010 in hopes of getting the company back on its feet. Aside from the 1,100 dealership cut on Friday, the company will also lose about 500 dealerships that market the Saturn, Hummer and Saab brands, which GM plans to phase out or sell.

Many dealers will fight being cut, using the company’s 30-day appeal process, then possibly taking GM to court.

“With the help of the people in Demopolis, we’ll keep on going,” said Windham Motors sales consultant Kelly Etheridge Jr.