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Many closing Chrysler dealers have little inventory left

DETROIT — Car buyers and deal-hunters heading out to Chrysler showrooms this weekend hoping to snag a once-in-a-lifetime deal may be out of luck: Closing dealers have little inventory to sell.

Dealers scheduled to close Tuesday have only 1,981 vehicles left to sell, and many of those dealers still have the option of finding another dealer to buy their excess inventory, Chrysler spokeswoman Carrie McElwee says. Dealers closing down soon sold 16,000 cars in May, and another 23,000 have been cherry-picked by dealers remaining in business.

The automaker told 789 dealers last month that they would remain Chrysler dealers only until June 9, at which time their franchises would be revoked.

Some affected dealers went before Chrysler's bankruptcy judge Thursday to protest the closing notice, and closing arguments by Chrysler and dealer attorneys are scheduled for Tuesday. McElwee says the dealers will remain part of Chrysler until the judge issues a decision, which may not be until later next week.

Any dealer with remaining inventory can ask Chrysler to help find another dealer to sell their vehicles, or keep the cars and try selling them without the benefit of Chrysler incentives. Also, once the store is dropped by Chrysler, the cars and trucks will be considered used, since they'll need to be registered in the dealership's name.

But dealers may not want Chrysler's help. The automaker is asking $350 per car to help redistribute the vehicles, which could add up if a dealer has a significant number of cars on its lots.

Dealers say some buyers have been calling Chrysler stores, asking for $10,000 discounts. But even though their franchise agreements are being dropped, store owners are bristling at the bargain hunters.

"Just because a brand is hurting doesn't mean that a shopper can automatically walk in and simply get a great deal," says Philip Reed, consumer advice editor for

Daniel Amaral, a dealer in Newtown, Conn., has just two Chryslers left: a four-door Sebring and a PT Cruiser. Someone called this week asking if he'd take $15,000 for the Sebring. The sticker price is $26,500, and he's asking $23,500.

"I'll keep it," says Amaral, who plans to keep the dealership open as a used car store and repair shop. "Eventually, people will need cars, and when they do, they'll know this is a good price."

Wade Walker, a Jeep dealer in Montpelier, Vt., found another dealer nearby to take the seven Jeeps he had on his lot at the start of May. He says he feels bad both for colleagues being cut off who are stuck with Chrysler vehicles, and for dealers staying in business who he says are being pressured to take on new cars they may not want or need.

"The market is just going to be flooded with these discounted vehicles for a while," Walker says.

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