Downey Ford prepares employees for closing

DOWNEY - Loss of hope is what Pat Mahon attributes as being the reason for Downey Ford's closing on Jan. 18.Working in the car dealership industry for nearly 30 years, Mahon has been the controller for Downey Ford since 2005. "The industry didn't start slowing down until the credit crunch," Mahon said. "It has nothing to do with us - it's the economy. If people can't get their vehicles financed because the banks aren't lending, there's nothing we can do." "We had hoped the bank bailout would put things back on track, but it didn't help. I remember the gas crunch during the 1970's, but that wasn't as bad because people were still buying cars." Just days before Thanksgiving, the dealership announced to its 63 employees that the business would be closing. To help the employees, Downey Ford contacted the state Employment Development Department for assistance. Store managers also contacted other car dealerships for possible job placements. "It's horrible that it had to be right before Christmas, but we couldn't foresee this a year ago. I've never seen the industry this bad before. Even people who have good credit don't want to pay the high interest rates so they are sticking with the vehicles they do have," she said. "We're not out of money - we're out of hope. We waited as long as we could, but we finally had to do what's best for the employees because the economy just hasn't gotten any better." Mahon is expected to be the only Downey Ford employee remaining after Jan. 18. As controller, she will be closing out the financial end of the business before she begins looking for a new job for herself. "Our employees have been our concern - first and foremost," she said. "That's why we had the EDD come here and talk to each and every one of our employees to help them find a new job, and our managers reached out to other dealerships. They have been on the phone calling places and writing letters of recommendation for the employees." "Luckily, the advantage to being in a specialized industry is that the employees have skills to use at another job. By the time we close, everyone will have a job from the EDD or the connections we have - there is a new job opportunity for everyone." The Downey Ford showroom and service department remains open until Jan. 18, but the dealership is currently operating with a skeleton crew. "People are leaving as they get new jobs," Mahon said. "But I worry about the little guys - like the people who deliver our uniforms, parts, and tires. All of our vendors will be losing another company they did business with, so there's a lot of people affected when a business like this closes." It is unknown what owner Bob Remy plans to do with the Downey Ford property. Located on the corner of Gallatin Road and Lakewood Boulevard, the dealership originally opened as Graham Ford in 1951 and changed owners several times during its 58 years of operation. "This is the hardest decision the owner has ever had to make," Mahon said. With the economy declining, what's going to happen is that only the corporate-owned dealerships will survive and the mom and pop businesses like this one will go by the wayside. It's not just Ford - it's everywhere." ********** Published: January 2, 2009 - Volume 7 - Issue 37