In small-town Pa., fading car dealers leave scar
June 26, 2009
JOE MANDAK Associated Press Writer SANDY LAKE, Pa. (AP)
Upset that General Motors was planning to "wind down" the dealership where they had loyally bought their Chevys for years, schoolteacher Marie Kohr and her husband, Kevin, went to GM with a message: "You are killing America." The Kohrs included with their letter a copy of a high school yearbook ad that Walker Chevrolet bought in tiny Sandy Lake in 1937 a purchase the dealership has made every year since. "Herein lies the problem," the Kohrs wrote. "Our local dealer has been unfairly deemed worthy of being closed. ... Apparently, loyalty is not important to you." General Motors Corp. has announced plans to pull 90 franchises in Pennsylvania and Chrysler Group LLC more than 50 the most in any state for both companies and along with them, a slice of Americana. N ew - c a r d e a l e r s i n Pennsylvania record fewer sales per dealer than many other states. To blame are declining sales and the large number of small-volume shops in a vast state composed largely of small towns isolated from one another by mountains. The failing companies are often targeting lower-volume, older franchises like Bob Kaltenbaugh's brick and cinderblock Walker showroom on Main Street in Sandy Lake, a town of 743 people about 60 miles north of Pittsburgh. Kaltenbaugh's grandfather opened Walker Chevrolet in 1933, and sales have declined slowly but steadily since Kaltenbaugh sold 200 new and used vehicles the year he bought out his uncle: 1984. Still, his customers consistently "buy American," mostly Imp a l a s a n d p i c k u p s . Kaltenbaugh, who still plans to sell used vehicles after GM pulls out, figures the company should be happy that he can count on selling 60 new vehicles this year, plus 75 used.