According to the New York Times, as Chrysler emerges from Chapter 11 it "will be competing in a brutal marketplace that may make bankruptcy court seem, by comparison, like a refuge." Shoppers, it added, "are steering clear of Chrysler showrooms."
But can you believe there are 1,300 motorists waiting in line for Chrysler products? And it's not in an alternate universe, but at LeaseTrader.com. In a system not unlike online dating, the company matches up would-be lease-holders with people, some of them distressed by the current economy, looking to get out of their current leases. As you might expect given the company's unique niche, business is up. Way up. And LeaseTrader says there are plenty of Chrysler fans in that environment.
"They're saying that nobody wants Chryslers, but what we're seeing is that it's a proud brand," says John Sternal, a company vice president. "It's sad to see what's happening to Chrysler, but it's still an American icon, and a lot of people are loyal to the brand."
Miami-based LeaseTrader is 10 years old and privately held, but the company does disclose the number of leases it handles. In 2006, it processed 20,000 leases; in 2007, 35,000; in 2008, 45,000; and it projects 55,000 this year. It has 20,000 to 25,000 leases in inventory.
LeaseTrader points out that Chrysler canceled its own lease program last August, and that "many people don't like the other financing options." According to Sternal, "Some of our lease sellers just want another car, but others could be said to be distressed--they've been severely affected by the economy."
The economics works this way: A lease-holder looking to escape pays $79 to have his or her listing online, with a photo and write-up on the car. If there's a match, another $150 transfer fee is due. For buyers, there's a $39 membership fee (which covers the cost of a credit check) and allows the user to communicate with vendors. When they find a car, a $150 fee is assessed. Of course, you can also just break your lease, which means paying it off at an average cost of $9,000 to $10,000.
LeaseTrader is a national service so you may be in Denver and the car in Massachusetts. In that case, LeaseTrader.com can hook you up with a traveling inspection service, or arrange to have the car shipped. You could say they get you coming and going.