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Automotive Dealership Arbitrations: Seventy-three General Motors and Chrysler Dealerships

Following the termination of over 1,000 dealerships by General Motors and nearly 800 by Chrysler, federal legislation (HR 3288, Sec 747) was introduced to provide a procedure for the review of the termination decisions. The bill, signed into law on December 16 of 2009, established criteria for the arbitration process, which was organized through the American Arbitration Association. Among the criteria that arbitrators were to consider were the dealership’s profitability, economic viability, market territory, sales performance metrics, and the manufacturer’s business plan.

Seventy-three of the dealerships that pursued arbitration retained Anderson Economic Group for expert analysis in the areas of demography, geography, sales performance analysis, economic viability, and financial analyses. These dealers were located across 23 different states. Fifty-five were General Motors dealerships, and 18 were Chrysler dealerships.

We worked with each dealership to develop a plan of work that focused on the critical elements of their case. These included geographic and demographic assessments to determine if trade area’s were properly assigned, and if performance metrics accurately accounted for local market conditions. In a number of cases we also provided financial analyses to measure the economic viability of a dealership from a profitability standpoint, and to benchmark historic financial performance against an industry average. We also assessed the overall industry structure, economic conditions, and the business plans that manufacturer’s cited as reasons to support dealership terminations. In doing so we were able to illustrate inconsistencies in their positions, and demonstrate that, in many instances, the termination of dealerships was actually harmful to the manufacturer’s economic interests. We also provided consultation regarding settlement and hearing strategies, as well as rebuttal to opposing expert analyses.

Our analyses were used by dealerships to evaluate the strength of their case, to negotiate favorable settlements prior to arbitration, and in 19 cases our experts presented findings before an arbitrator. By the end of the arbitration process more than 90 percent of our clients had received favorable financial settlements, or had been reinstated as dealerships.