Senators Score Help for Chrysler Dealers

A senior Republican senator, working in tandem with a Motor City Democrat, secured assurances on Thursday that the 789 Chrysler dealers, set to close by June 9, per a Chrysler bankruptcy mandate, will have help recouping the costs of the inventory and equipment left on their lots.Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-TX, working with Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-MI, brokered a deal to help the roughly 40,000 people who will be affected by the closure mandate.

In a letter from Chrysler President James Press, Hutchison was assured that all of the dealers will "receive a fair and equitable value for virtually all of their outstanding vehicle and parts inventory." Press said there are "more than 200 representatives in the field to make sure that we make good on this commitment." You can read the letter here:

Because of the senators' dogged pursuit of these assurances, which at one point included a threat to hold up a popular war spending bill, dealers will now "receive a daily report which specifically outlines each unit of inventory as its placed in the transition process." Hutchison said she and Stabenow called Press when they received the letter and got him to assure them that even after June 9, the company would continue to help the shuttered dealerships.

"There is now a plan and a commitment in terms of working through this process," said Stabenow on the Senate floor, adding a personal note. "I feel very close to this," the senator said, as both her father and grandfather were car dealers. "I grew up on a car lot," she said, remembering washing cars as a young child.

Neither senator expressed total satisfaction with the deal, but said it was the best Chrysler could do. Hutchison warned that she would follow up in two weeks to ensure that promises had been kept.

General Motors has given their dealers until the end of 2010 to close, and Hutchison, who is running for governor, said this was not not fair.

Chrysler had previously told its dealers that they would not buy back their vehicles, diagnostic equipment, etc.

Hutchison has 50 Chrysler dealerships in her state, second only to Pennsylvania.

Hutchison, the top Republican on the Commerce Committee, with Stabenow, behind the scenes with Senate leaders, the White House, and Chrysler executives to find a compromise. Hutchison originally crafted an amendment to the war spending bill that would have extended the closure deadline by three weeks.