GM reinstates 2 Chicago-area dealerships

March 12, 2010 3:36:44 PM PST
Two Chicago-area car dealerships have learned they are being reinstated by General Motors.

The automaker dropped hundreds of dealers last year when they filed for bankruptcy.

At Ettleson's, they're glad they can push the Cadillac brand again -- something GM took away when it shook up its dealer network and dropped Pontiac in the midst of last year's bankruptcy. Ettleson was going to go to arbitration to fight. Then GM gave up.

"It has been tough with personnel, it has been tough with our building because our building is too big just to handle the two brands. We were able to handle the four brands fine. But our building has become too big for us and it has become unprofitable," said Mike Ettleson, Ettleson Cadillac Buick Pontiac GMC.

Ettleson, who bought his father out of the family business that 20 years ago sold the most Chevrolets in the country, is banking that General Motor's change of heart brings customers back to his store.

"I think it will be later this year sometime, maybe in the third quarter when we will see some more improvement in the economy and improvement in sales. GM is making great products now so the products are out there and they can compete," said Ettleson.

That feeling that corporate titans were messing with a good thing when they attempted to shutter over 1,000 dealerships -- or at least reduce their offerings -- made a tough year brutal for the Midwest's oldest Cadillac dealership.

"We have had it for 60 years and it was a great loss to us to have it taken away and it means approximately 50 percent of our business," said Dennis Bauer, Arnie Bauer Cadillac Buick Pontiac GMC.

Like Ettleson, Bauer was headed for arbitration with GM when he received a letter Thursday welcoming him back to the Cadillac-selling family -- a major relief for a man who inherited his business from his dad, and will give it to his son.

"All GM, their sales are up. But I think Cadillac was lagging just a little bit. And I think it was the lack of dealerships that hurt them," said Bauer.

The Illinois Automotive Dealers Association says about 66 Illinois GM dealers had been slated for closure.