Photo courtesy Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Photo courtesy Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has introduced a new program aimed at identifying, developing, and placing dealer candidates as it works to strengthen and enhance its U.S. dealership network.

The Dealer Market Investment Program will cultivate and provide financial support to proven, high-potential individuals who want to operate a Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram or Alfa Romeo-Maserati dealership but have limited funds. The program seeks to match potential dealers with specific markets where they can succeed, said Reid Bigland, the factory’s head of U.S. sales.

“This program places the support of FCA behind high-potential dealer candidates and tells them we have their backs as they enter the retail vehicle sales business,” Bigland said.

Candidates apply through a process that requires demonstrated leadership skills, financial acumen and customer satisfaction, as well as a proven track record of exceptional sales performance. Candidates must also participate in FCA’s dealer assessment and development program and invest substantial amounts of their own start-up capital.

FCA — through its relationships with Chrysler Capital and Ally Financial — will provide 85% of the funds needed to cover a dealership’s working capital through low-interest loans while the potential dealer covers the remaining 15%.

For the real estate investment, Chrysler Capital and Ally Financial will provide 80% of the funding, FCA will provide 15% and the potential dealer will cover the remaining 5%.

“High-potential candidates, whose mere constraint may be a lack of capital, are given support for their startup costs while using their funding to jump-start operations at the dealership,” said Al Gardner, Head of Network Development. “We expect a variety of individuals to use this approach to quicken their impact in the market where they are establishing their dealership.”

FCA recently piloted the program at Northland Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram in metro Detroit.

“This is an area of the market that has tremendous growth potential,” said Bashar Cholagh, Senior Manager of Market Representation, Dealer Network Diversity and Technologies. “We worked closely with Eddie Hall III and his partner Ken Thomas to provide them this opportunity through the program. In less than one month, they had the keys to the dealership doors and are now selling our vehicles.”

Hall said the Dealer Market Investment Program gave him and Thomas the wherewithal to start making improvements immediately. 

“We have already picked out new furniture and have a painter set to come out within the next 30 days,” Hall said. “We also now have some reserve capital, so we can do a full-scale remodel.”

With the deal complete, Northland is now the only African-American owned Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram dealership in metro Detroit.

“My dad, Eddie Jr., was born and raised in Detroit, I was raised in metro Detroit, and Ken was born and raised in Detroit, so owning this store at this time when Detroit is making a comeback is very important to us,” Hall said. “This is really a full-circle moment for us.”

Thomas, who first began his automotive industry career working as a technician at Northland more than 33 years ago, said he hopes others will also take advantage of this opportunity.

“This program is exactly what I had been looking for,” Thomas said. “I believe that this program will set the standard for what a dealer development program should look like in the future.”