After nearly losing it all during General Motors' 2,400 dealer downsizing program in 2009, Don Ledford Automotive is back on top and looking to double its physical presence in Cleveland, Tenn.
Following months of pleas and negotiations with GM, the storied Cleveland dealer has won the right to sell Chevrolet vehicles, provided it meets certain conditions, said Debbie Ledford Melton, general manager and partner at Don Ledford Automotive.
Beginning this fall, she'll start construction on a new wing of her dealership, she said, devoted exclusively to Chevy vehicles. It will be a "twin" to the existing location by size, though its appearance will be different. It will open in spring 2012, she said.
GM spokeswoman Ryndee Carney confirmed that GM sent Melton a letter of intent.
"They have to meet the conditions of the letter of intent before they will have a signed sales and service agreement," Carney said. "Dealers have to have a certain level of capitalization, have to be able to floorplan their facilities and have to meet certain location criteria."
This is a second major victory for Ledford in as many years.
In Spring 2010, she won the right to retain her other GM franchises, including Buick, GMC and Cadillac. But following Hall Chevrolet's closure in 2009, Cleveland Chevy buyers had to look beyond their metro area to purchase the brand for about two years.
"I think it's good news, again, for somebody who had to lose a franchise for no particularly good reason," said Ken Hunt, owner of Hunt Nissan and president of the Chattanooga Auto Dealers Association. "I'm glad they got it back."