Dealers fret about supply Inventory: While one local new-car dealer has an abundance of cars in stock, most in the area are concerned that a prolonged strike could cause supply problems.

June 20, 1998|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

There was a time -- as recently as last week -- when William Hurwitz believed he had made a terrible business decision by ordering so many cars earlier this year. But not anymore.

While other new-car dealers are beginning to worry about their supply of cars as a result of the strikes in Flint, Mich., that have halted most of the vehicle production of General Motors Corp., Hurwitz, president of Fox Automotive Inc., insists he's "in good shape."

"I thought I had made a big mistake," he said yesterday, "but it turned out to be one of my better decisions."

He said he is getting calls every day from dealers in the Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia regions, seeking to buy cars from him.

A survey of eight Maryland new-car dealers found that while they all said they have adequate cars in inventory now, most are worried about what might happen if the strikes continue another few weeks.

"At the moment I'm in good shape, but I could have an inventory problem down the road," said Joseph Aiello, president of JBA Chevrolet in Glen Burnie.

"Spring and summer are the best times of the year for auto sales," he added, hoping for a settlement of the labor disputes before he runs out of cars to sell.

Cadillac dealers are in good shape, according to Robert Frankel, president of Frankel Cadillac and Land Rover in Pikesville.

"Cadillac will lose only 2,000 cars in its production run," Frankel said.

Robert Bell, owner of Bob Bell Chevrolet, with stores in Bel Air and Eastpoint, said sales have been good the past month, cutting into his inventory. His concern is that if the strikes continue another two or three weeks, he could run out of some models.

Bell said the strike has forced some dealers to change the way they do business. He explained that dealers are becoming reluctant to trade cars among themselves. If they give up a hot- selling car because it is the color that a customer at another dealership wants, they want the same type of car back.

In the past, Bell said, a dealer might take a less popular car in

trade with the understanding that the other dealer would return the favor the next time.

Jerome H. Fader, president of Heritage Automotive Group of Owings Mills, which operates 25 new-car franchises in the metropolitan area, including five Saturn dealerships, said Saturn has not been affected by the strikes.

"They have their own stamping plant, and production continues," Fader said.

John W. Miller, owner of Miller Bros. Chevrolet in Ellicott City, said he sympathized with General Motors in its efforts to reduce it operating costs, but he said if the strikes continue a month or two it would have a serious impact on every GM dealership in the country.

He said some lines of popular GM trucks, including the Tahoe and Suburban, are already in short supply.

"It's a bad situation," said Charles Mangold, general sales manager at Bob Smith Automotive in Easton, which handles six lines of GM cars and trucks. "We're not hurting yet," but if the strikes continues "it is going to have a dramatic effect on us and all the other GM dealers."

Pub Date: 6/20/98

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