Well muscle car fans, if you wanted to relive Kowalski’s Vanishing Point run in a new Dodge Challenger, you’d better get to your Dodge dealer quickly….because they might be closing soon.

As of yesterday (May 14, 2009) Chrysler put out the word that it would like to close 789 of it’s 3181 dealerships nationwide.  It’s part of a restructuring measure involved with Chrysler’s bankruptcy.  According to Chrysler, 50% of their dealerships represented 90% of their sales.  Here in Ames, IA (where I live) all of the Chrysler/Dodge dealers will likely be leaving….and so will many others in our state, according to the Des Moines Register.  The Register also mentions that Chrysler sold an average of 303 vehicles per dealer in 2008….and Honda Motor Co. sold about 1,200 vehicles per dealer, while Toyota Motor Corp. sold nearly 1,300.  Ug.  Talk about getting your clock cleaned.  (In full disclosure, in addition to two Chevy’s, I also own two Toyota’s – and they’re great.)

In many ways Chrysler’s situation makes me sad.  Sad that things ever got this bad.  Sad that a once great American car company has become a debt-ridden shadow of it’s former self.  Sad that the new Challenger, which is a complete testament to the 1970 Challenger we all know and love, may have to go the way of the Dodo bird to make way for some cheap econobox car as part of the restructuring measure (that’s a complete guess on my part, by the way…..but is seems logical).  Sad for the people and families affected personally.

BUT, truth be told, I don’t think it’s all bad.  As many of you know, I’m a Christian and am a big fan of Dave Ramsey (I am actually a  Dave Ramsey Certified Financial Counselor).  I hate debt.  A lot.  Proverbs 22:7 says that “the rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender”.  Chrysler (and Ford and GM for that matter) are all in debt up to their eyeballs, and they now have a pretty good understanding of the slave/master relationship.  They’ve made agreements with their employees and unions that are nearly impossible to keep, and have been making them work (thus far) with the use of debt.  They made cars of poor quality for a long time, and consumers noticed.  This entire process, painful as it is, I believe will be healthy in the long run.  The 3 American car companies may transition into something new over the next coming years that leave them smaller, but more efficient, and able to compete on in the global market with great cars.  Who knows…..but one thing is certain – the bill always comes due.  You have to pay it eventually, and in the back of your mind you’d better realize that you can’t postpone the inevitable forever.  The decisions that Ford, GM, and Chrysler have made (repeatedly) have now put them in this position.  The bill is due.

Sorry to get all phil-a-mo-sophical.  This issue has been bugging me for some time.   As for how this affects the collector car industry, and even more specifically – muscle car junkies like us, only time will tell.  The 1970 Challenger was cool the day it rolled off of the assembly line – but it wasn’t the legend it is now until years later.  I have no idea if the new Challenger will become a legend itself, but I hope it will.  That being said…..I still like the ’70 better. 🙂

Here’s a really neat video that Edmunds Inside Line put together – it pairs up a ’70 Challenger (dressed up like the Challenger in Vanishing Point) with a new Challenger.  Good stuff.  (By the way – if you have no idea what Vanishing Point is, it’s a really crappy 1970’s movie with horrible dialogue, a confusing plot, and a white 1970 Challenger that was taught a few moves by the General Lee!  The driving scenes are good….but don’t let your kids see the rest.)

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