DOWNEY - Since declaring bankruptcy on June. 1, General Motors Corp. has struggled to find its footing, leaving hundreds of dealerships that sell its brands fighting to keep their doors open. Soon Casa De Gonzales Cadillac and Chevrolet of Downey will become the latest GM dealership to shut down."The automobile business is a tough business to be in right now," said Assistant City Manager Lee Powell. "Though we remain concerned, there is not a lot of flexibility in what the city can do. We're trying to stay informed." The owner of Casa De Gonzales could not be reached for comment, but Powell attributes the closure to the weakened economy. "Downey isn't a microcosm," said Powell. "The auto industry is changing and we feel the effects in Downey." Cadillac and Chevrolet are both owned by GM, which also serves as the parent company for Pontiac, Saturn, GMC, Buick, Saab and others. With just 12 vehicles left on its lot, Casa De Gonzales will soon become the largest Downey dealership to shut down since Downey Ford closed in January due to its low sales. Robert Zavala, president of the Downey Chamber of Commerce, remains positive about Downey's economic future, but recognizes that many industries have been hit hard. "It's not a normal business year - I think Downey felt a drop," said Zavala. "But I'm not sure if Casa De Gonzales is closing due to the economy or poor management or a combination of the two." David Caldwell, communications manager for Cadillac, had no information concerning the Casa De Gonzales closure, but acknowledged that Cadillac is undergoing a large reduction in its dealers. "Our dealership network is three to five times larger than any of our competitors," said Caldwell in a phone interview. "It was created many decades ago and now we're adjusting it to the economy." Currently, Cadillac has more than 1,400 dealers across the U.S., but plans to cut the number down to 600, said Caldwell. To accomplish this, Cadillac has issued extensive standards that mandate better customer service and higher car sales from those dealerships desiring to sign new agreements. "It was time to change and now we're moving into the future," said Caldwell. "We've refocused our efforts to create products that compete with the best. If we do that job right - we'll produce more revenue." Chevrolet Communications Manager Brian Goebel said Chevrolet announced plans to close several dealers this year, but would not confirm if Casa De Gonzales was one of those sites. Nonetheless, Powell assures dealers that Downey's economy is more fluent than surrounding cities, providing ready access to consumers. "Downey has always been a very good automobile city," said Powell, who suggested that all city residents "buy a car in Downey."
********** Published: August 28, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 19