When it comes to dealership closings, there is a big divide between what General Motors, Chrysler and President Obama's auto task force want and what dealers and Congress want. The bankrupt Detroit automakers say that closing dealerships will save money, streamline vehicle delivery, improve brand image, and improve the health of remaining retail stores.

Some members of Congress aren't so sure that dealer closings will cure much for GM and Chrysler, and the legislative branch brought Chrysler's Jim Press and GM's Fritz Henderson before the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday for yet another grilling. Broadly speaking, Congress tends to side with dealers because of the political influence of the dealer body, and because of the impact of dealership job losses in the districts/states that Congressmen and women serve.

According to The Wall Street Journal, committee chairman John D. Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) says that he doesn't "believe that companies should be allowed to take taxpayer funds for a bailout and then leave it to local dealers and their customers to fend for themselves with no real plan, with no real notice, with no real help." Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) added that he is introducing legislation that will force the Obama administration to require congressional approval to use TARP funds to obtain an equity stake in any company.

Press and Henderson told the dealers that they would need to ultimately close 3,400 dealerships. GM has so far announced 1,324 closings by the end of 2010, while Chrysler will shutter 789 retail stores by June 9. Over the course of the congressional proceedings, Automotive News notes that Henderson bowed to pressure to disclose the list of dealers GM is eliminating, although that list has not been made public yet.

Henderson calls bankruptcy "our last chance to get it right, to fix permanently those parts of the business that have diverted us from consistently building winning cars and trucks and the consumer experience to match." Dealers called the closings "hasty," and contend that the actions taken against them won't be nearly as effective as GM and Chrysler expect. Hat tip to Dave!

[Sources: Wall Street Journal; Automotive News - subs. req | Source Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty]

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