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Posted: May 16, 2009 3:40 p.m.

Local GM, Chrysler car dealerships safe from cuts

Covington Car Dealer Billy Fortson received good news for the second day in a row when he did not receive a letter from General Motors Friday. Fortson’s Ginn Motor Company is not one of the 1,100 GM dealerships whose contract will not be renewed by GM in 2010.

Fortson did receive a letter from Chrysler on Thursday, but it told him that his Ginn Chrysler Jeep dealership would continue to be a part of the company as it moves forward.

"I was just relieved when I received the letter that said I’m going to be a part of the new company," Fortson said.

Although Fortson said his sales have been declining like most other dealerships, he was likely benefited by the lack of other GM and Chrysler dealerships in Covington. During a Friday press conference, Mark LaNeve, GM Vice President of Sales Service and Marketing, said the majority of dealerships that were not being renewed were those in saturated urban and suburban markets.

GM said that many rural dealerships, even if they had a small volume of sales, were being kept on board. In an e-mail response, GM Director of Communications Pete Ternes said GM classified rural dealers as those who cover a large geographic area that is sparsely populated.

He said Covington would likely be classified as such an area and that GM views these dealers as a competitive advantage for the company. The next closest GM dealerships are in Conyers.

Even though he’s in a rural area, Fortson said the disappearance of the construction industry has really affected vehicle sales in Newton and Rockdale counties. He said truck sales in particular were down dramatically and area dealerships have had to cut prices and jobs.

"It’s tough for everyone because we were so dependent on that industry … but now it’s just gone," he said.

Fortson has owned Ginn Motor Company since 1987 and Ginn Chrysler Jeep since 2007. He said he employs 60 people at the GM Chevrolet dealership and 20 at the Chrysler dealership.

GM dealerships in Loganville and Monroe also said they did not receive any notification from GM. Ternes said GM has 164 dealerships in Georgia, but GM is not giving out state totals for dealerships that received letters.

GM is planning to eliminate hundreds of more dealerships in later stages of its reorganization, as it works toward closing 40 percent of its 6,000-dealer network by the end of 2010.

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