FCA dealers, with Daimler scars, optimistic about PSA possibilities

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Doug Moreland is spending millions on new stores in Nevada, Colorado and Wyoming to broaden his Fiat Chrysler Automobiles portfolio — and he has no doubts.

Moreland, who has been selling Chrysler products for nearly 40 years, says he’s bullish on FCA. And with a merger now on the table between FCA and PSA Group, he’s even more confident in his investment decisions.

“We have two new facilities in planning — one in Cheyenne, Wyo., and one in Loveland, Colo. — so they’re not even out of the ground, but this makes me feel a lot more secure in the future of putting $10 [million] to $15 million into two new facilities and knowing I’m going to have the right products to sell,” Moreland told Automotive News. “I’m very ecstatic and feel real good, to say the least, about the future for FCA.”

The president of Moreland Auto Group said he’s building a Jeep store now in Las Vegas and recently built a Jeep location in Fort Collins, Colo.

Longtime Chrysler dealers suffered through the failed marriage with Daimler, but Moreland and others were upbeat about FCA’s plans to combine with the French automaker, which has a considerable footprint in Europe to complement FCA’s strength in North America.

Moreland said a merger would let dealers know “that the manufacturer has the financial muscle to evolve into the future with electricity and all the other changes, the product development. I think they’ll be able to keep us supplied with competitive new product and have the financial support to market, advertise and support the dealer body here in the U.S. I think it’s great.”

David Kelleher, who owns David Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep-Ram in Glen Mills, Pa., said he’s excited for the merger, as FCA dealers have seemed to be in a holding pattern while the company sought suitors, the most recent of which was a failed tie-up with Renault that FCA walked away from in June.

“I think this is important because, in a way, it kind of felt like the cloud of waiting for this to happen had been over our heads for quite some time,” Kelleher said. “Now the people going forward know that it’s done, they’ll know the plan, and then they’ll help us sell cars, which is exactly where I hope everyone’s head’s going to be.”

Kelleher said he’s also optimistic that the company will, as promised, achieve economies of scale, make necessary capital investments and be able to meet looming market challenges.

But Kelleher is not without reservation.

“My caution comes from what many of us that have been around for a while experienced with the last merger of equals with Daimler,” Kelleher said. In that case, he said, the German automaker appeared to think its sales and marketing techniques would translate to the American market. They mostly did not.

“We found that to be a very arduous time for us, a very difficult time for us and a very clumsy partnership,” he said.

Steve Wolf, dealer principal at Helfman Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep-Ram-Fiat in Houston, said he wouldn’t mind selling Peugeot vehicles one day.

He thinks they could fit alongside Alfa Romeo and Maserati products.

“We went through the Peugeot website yesterday and saw some of their products,” Wolf said.

“What excited me more was not necessarily the products, but the technology, the electrification and the autonomous driving. It seems like they’re really ahead on that, and it looks like if we can share that technology and share the platforms, I think that will drive new and innovative products in a lot less time and — for the manufacturer — a lot less cost.”

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