Shuttered Car Dealers Seek Arbitration

The General Motors headquarters is seen in Detroit, Thursday, July 9, 2009. The path is now clear for General Motors Corp. to leave bankruptcy protection in record time as a leaner company that is better equipped to compete in a brutal global auto market. On Thursday, a judge's order allowing GM to sell most of its assets to a new company went into effect, despite a last-minute appeal by plaintiffs in a product liability case. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

General Motors announced Monday that interim CEO Ed Whitacre will take over that role officially. It was also the deadline for former GM and Chrysler deakers, shut down as part of those company's reorganizations plans, to file for arbitration to get their businesses - and livelihoods - back, as CBS News correspondent Sandra Hughes reports.

Eight months ago, car dealer Steve Bussjaeger gave his sales force a pep talk. It was the day after Chrysler went into bankruptcy and he told them, "This is probably the best thing that could happened," giving the company a chance to reorganize for a stronger future.

But when Chrysler and GM went to Washington begging for a bailout, the terms of bankruptcy meant dealerships had to close.

With no explanation, Bussjaeger was shut down - along with 788 other Chrysler dealers. GM wants 2,000 dealers closed by October. Bussjaeger laid off 44 employees and lost about a million dollars.

"I'm still very bitter, very bitter," he said. "It's just not right what happened."

Now Bussjaeger and others may get a new lease on life. Congress ordered the automakers to set up an arbitration process to reinstate some closed dealerships.

"The first thing would be to show that the process was perhaps arbitrary or unfair or that perhaps another dealer was, quote, a worse dealer and didn't get terminated," said Jeremy Anwyl, CEO of the automotive site

From coast to coast, many say they're facing impossible odds.

In New York, former Chevy dealer Fred Derise says he can't afford to appeal. "To procure the land and to build a new facility it would cost $5 million," he said.

Bussjaeger estimates he'll spend $100,000 to make his case. Even then, he doesn't trust Chrysler.

"I don't think Chrysler wanted to do it at all," he said. "I think they felt they had to do it."

Bussjaeger could be right. Chrysler's CEO recently said the company might go to court to slam the brakes on arbitration.

But GM likely won't. "We'll just have to examine this and see the circumstances under which they were terminated," Whitacre said.

So far, more than 1,300 of those terminated dealers say they'll fight back.