For Car Dealers, Shock Turning To Anger

car dealership generic
car dealership (EN Cordes piece)

The Wykoff Chrysler dealership has been selling Chryslers and Jeeps in New Jersey since the Reagan Administration. Cars are part of Rob Engel's DNA.

"My brother and I have been in this business since we were 11 and 13 years old," Engel said. "It's all we've known.

Engel's father began repairing cars across the street right after fleeing Austria just ahead of the Nazis. Fixing cars morphed into selling them. The business is now owned by Rob and his brother, Rick.

A successful mid-size dealership - at least the Engels thought so - until two days ago. That's when the call came from Chrysler, reports CBS News correspondent Tony Guida.

"This was a sucker punch for my brother and I," Engel said.

This shop and another the Engels own half-an-hour away - terminated.

"I'm making the transition from shock to anger," Engel said.

Anger may be an understatement. Chrysler's deadline means Engel has less than a month to sell the 100 cars left on his lot. In this economy, that's impossible. With the money Engel stands to lose, Chrysler's bankruptcy could result in personal bankruptcy for him.

Jim Anderer says it's nothing short of grand theft auto that Chrysler is forcing his Long Island Jeep dealership to close - he's been there for 22 years. Forty eight jobs and millions of dollars of inventory are on the line. Anderer is not going quietly.

"There's been a gun put to my head," Anderer said. "I have no choice. I'm going to sue."

The Chrysler axe fell on Geoff Pohanka in Maryland, too. Pohanka is also a GM dealer; he sells Chevys, Cadillacs and Saturns. GM plans to dump Saturn, leaving Pohanka wondering what will happen to this business.

"We really do not know specifically our future," Pohanka said. "If we will have a future."

But unlike Chrysler's ultimatum to shut down next month, GM is telling dealers the bad news 18 months in advance.

"General Motors at least is giving dealers time to make plans," Pohanka said.

Geoff Pohanka, Jim Anderer, and Rob Engel - three men in free fall from careers they spent their lives nurturing. They know countless others are falling, too. But that doesn't make the descent any less frightening.