Car dealer from Ellis County tells emotional story of losing franchise at Congressional hearing
Washington, D.C.: Congressional leaders, including Rep. Joe Barton (R-Ennis/Arlington), heard on Friday from several car dealers who recently lost their franchises and then questioned the executives that made the decision to take them away.
One dealer who made the trip to the Nation’s Capital was Ellis County’s Frank “Tres” Blankenbeckler. He runs Carlisle Chevrolet-Cadillac in Waxahachie, which started selling cars in almost 85 years ago, making it the oldest Chevy dealer in the state of Texas.
“This dealership was founded in 1926 by my maternal grandfather Y.C Carlisle. My grandfather bought and paid for Carlisle Chevrolet from his labors. My father paid my grandmother over a period of 15 years for Carlisle Chevrolet through his efforts and work. It took me nearly 20 to pay my parents for Carlisle Chevrolet. It took GM and Chrysler a mere 24 hours to steal Carlisle Chevrolet from me! This makes no sense. Why is this happening?” Mr. Blankenbeckler asked with anger and frustration in his voice.
Rep. Barton echoed those questions and vowed to get answers.
“Working people are losing their jobs, and they deserve to know why. Taxpayers also deserve some answers, too, given the federal government’s role in the bankruptcy and ownership stake in both these companies,” said Rep Barton.
Mr. Blankenbecker got emotional during the hearing as he discusssed what would happen to his employees. He told the Members of Congress that some of “his people” have worked at the dealership for decades and are like family.
“I would like to mention to the committee the human element of these actions by GM and Chrysler. Nearly 90 souls depend upon Carlisle for their livelihood. With our closing these people will be subjected to extreme economic hardship. I am hurt. I feel violated. I am extremely angry. I wear my father’s Bronze Star label pin on my coat. He was a member of the greatest generation. I am glad that he is not alive to witness this travesty. To have risked his life for a country that would do what they are doing would destroy him. I love my country and my state, but I feel great pain in what is happening,” Mr. Blankenbeckler said as he fought back tears.
Friday’s hearing was held by the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. Members gathered to review the closing of 789 Chrysler dealerships and plans by GM to shutter about 1,350 by the end of next year as part of their bankruptcies.
"This has been the most difficult part of executing our plan: the human story of the people who are affected by the painful but necessary actions we are taking to ensure our viability," GM CEO Fritz Henderson said in testimony.
Rep. Barton had his doubts about that business plan and the logic behind it.
“I am puzzled by the idea that reducing the supply of dealerships to restrict competition is going to help Chrysler Corporation or GM and its workers. If people aren’t buying cars at today’s prices, how does it help to restrict competition and raise car prices? The government bailed these companies out in part because of their large presence and reputation throughout the nation. Now that they have been saved, they say, no thank you, we won’t be in your communities any more? This hearing was a good first step and we got some answers, but we need to keep digging,” said Barton