When Chrysler closed the door on Gary Cartwright in May, the longtime Booneville auto dealer opened another one.
Cartwright was one of 789 dealerships across the country that Chrysler essentially “fired,” telling them that their franchise agreements were terminated.
It was a move that Cartwright, a Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep dealer for 25 years, expected. That Chrysler gave him less than a month to sell his remaining inventory and parts was less than desirable, but rather than be too bothered by it, Cartwright simply put another plan into motion.
Cartwright still has his Ford dealership – one he’s had for 39 years – and rather than let the old Chrysler lot sit empty, he was ready to fill it with something else.
“All over the U.S. and Northeast Mississippi, if you look at what people are driving, you’ll see that about half of them are foreign cars,” he said. “I had the facility and the lot, so I decided why not put it to use and sell what people are buying.”
And so, Cartwright Imports was born.
While the Chrysler Dodge and Jeep signs are still up, Cartwright said new signs are on their way. But he’s been selling pre-owned import vehicles for a few weeks now and is pleased with the results.
“Just last week we sold a Lexus, an Infiniti, two Nissans, a Toyota, a Volkwagen and a Honda,” he said.
Also available last week were a BMW sport utility vehicle, Mercedes sedan and a Mercedes SUV alongside several Asian makes.
In fact, Cartwright said, “if there’s a vehicle you want, we can get it.”
Taking the high road
If Cartwright appears happy now, that’s because he is. Even after having to involuntarily sever ties with a car company he did business with for a quarter-century, Cartwright said there was no point in sulking.
“I tried to put a positive spin on the situation,” he said. “I’ve been selling cars my whole life – it’s all I’ve known.”
After Chrysler’s announcement, Cartwright moved quickly to sell his remaining inventory of the automaker’s products.
“We were told that they would not buy back the vehicles, the parts, anything,” he said.
By June 8, Cartwright had sold all but six of the Chrysler vehicles. But he said the company said it had found other dealers who could take them.
“But they’re still sitting in the back,” he said with a shrug. “We’ll see what happens.”
Meantime, Cartwright is busy scouring online and going to auctions to find low-mileage, one-owner quality used cars.
And Cartwright is looking to add two employees –a salesman and technician – with the switch to selling imports.
He hopes to build his imports inventory to about 30 vehicles. With promising results so far, Cartwright said it’s time to file away Chrysler’s decision and look ahead.
“It gave me a golden opportunity to sell more vehicles than what I was selling before,” he said. “My employees are excited, our customers are excited.”
Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal