Trevor Connor has had some explaining to do since word of Chrysler’s financial woes trickled down to the owners and would-be buyers of vehicles produced by the troubled auto giant.
Connor, a sales person at Simcoe County Chrysler in Orillia, readily acknowledged that Chrysler’s slide into bankruptcy protection south of the border has prompted concern among customers unsure of the company’s future.
“Consumers are a little intimidated,” he said this week, stressing that, “the warranties and everything else that goes along with it are intact.”
Even as the U.S.-based Chrysler undergoes a restructuring that includes billions in loans from Ottawa and Queen’s Park, it is business as usual at franchises across Canada, Connor said.
“We are solid as we have ever been, we are not going away,” he said.
While sales of new cars are down 50 per cent at the local dealership, sales of used models are on the rise as buyers seek to lower their costs.
Growing interest in used cars is further driven by Chrysler’s inability to offer leasing, he said.
“Any of the sales people in Orillia will tell you a lot of new-car sales are hedged around leasing,” he added.
Customers are also holding onto their vehicles longer, and are increasingly willing to spend more on repairs, he said.
“People are spending $3,000 or $4,000 (on repairs),” he added.
Operating with a relatively lean staff of 10 – including sales and service – the dealership is well positioned to succeed in future, Connor said.
“I think being small and nimble is a tremendous advantage,” he added. “We observed this coming. We were fully prepared for this and were taking steps in August of last year (to become more efficient).
“We are not trying to be the biggest store in North America,” he added. “We know our customers’ needs. They want to deal with a smaller location.”
Connor is confident Chrysler will emerge from its restructuring in a stronger position, citing past successes such as the mini-van as evidence of its innovative approach.
“Absolutely,” he said. “We tend to be on the forefront of innovation.”