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|In spite of Chrysler's bankruptcy,Klagholz is optimistic|
May is shaping up to be the best month of the year for the Interstate Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep dealership in West Monroe.
Owner John Klagholz said Wednesday his dealership sold nine vehicles on May 1. The following days also have been profitable.
"These first three days are putting us on track for the best month of the year," Klagholz said. "I know you can't judge things by three days, but if this stays on the same par right now, May will be our best month so far."
"Everybody is pumped up around here," Klagholz added.
Klagholz said the decision by Chrysler to seek bankruptcy protection and to merge with the Italian automaker Fiat lifted "a cloud of uncertainty" for Chrysler dealers. It's back to business, according to Klagholz, for him and his employees.
"Bankruptcy is probably the best thing to happen to Chrysler," Klagholz explained. "They will emerge from bankruptcy and be a stronger company.
He said the bad news is Chrysler will shrink the number of dealers as part of its bankruptcy reorganization. Chrysler has already warned weaker dealers they may be shut down if they do not improve sales within six months.
"We are a pretty sound business for Chrysler, and we have been invited to join the new Chrysler, if you will," Klagholz said. "Overall, the merger with Fiat couldn't be better."
Italy's Fiat was the leading bidder in an auction of Chrysler's assets. The merger with Fiat would create the world's sixth-largest automaker.
"I think this will give us a more diverse product line and a better global identity," Klagholz said. "I think President Obama and his administration have really been on point with the auto industry. I don't think they have done anything to harm Chrysler."
Regarding the economy, Klagholz says he is the ultimate optimist.
"I think we are starting to see some good economic signs," he said. "I don't want to say business is great, but it's not bad. We are making a living.
"Everyone is feeling the economy right now, but I am very optimistic. There are definitely pockets of success and pockets of weakness throughout the country. Toyota (sales) was down 45 percent in April, but Chrysler was down only 34 percent. Yet you never hear anything negative about them (Toyota)."
Klagholz has friends who operate dealers in other areas of the country and in Canada. He says the majority of them are profitable at this time.
"If you are looking to buy a vehicle, there has never been a better time," Klagholz said. "All across the board there's some unprecedented rebates coming out.
"If you are in the market for a new car, prices have never been better," he added.
Klagholz said he played it safe when the economy started its downturn last year and chose to keep all of his employees at a time when others were laying off people.
"I kept everyone on board and I think that was the right move because people are your biggest asset, and I've got all mine in place," he said.