Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Chrysler sets Wednesday for a rebirth celebration

'Going to be a big night,' dealer says

Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep dealerships across the country are planning to celebrate the automaker's ownership change Wednesday night.

Private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management took majority ownership of Chrysler LLC on Aug. 3 and two days later put in a new CEO, Bob Nardelli, the former head of Home Depot.

Invitations to the dealership events went out shortly after the announcement, advertising a celebration of "the next hundred years."

"It's going to be a big night," said Bill Golling of Golling Chrysler Jeep Dodge Inc. in Bloomfield Township.

His dealership has invited 5,000 customers. Chrysler estimates that around 80% of its 3,700 dealers will be participating in some kind of celebration that evening.

There will be a sweepstakes to win one of 15 new vehicles.

"It's like a housewarming party, when -- you know -- somebody moves in new and you can go and get to meet them," Chrysler spokeswoman Christina Biache said.

Alan Helfman, vice president of Helfman River Oaks Chrysler Jeep in Houston, sent out invitations promising a live band, fried chicken and a chocolate fountain.

Chuck Fortinberry, president of Clarkston Chrysler Jeep, has planned hors d'oeuvres and invited 1,500 customers. He hopes they'll take a good look at the new 2008 Chrysler Town & Country minivan.

"We're really looking forward to showcasing our new products. We're proud to be an American company. We're happy that we've the flexibility and autonomy that we used to do that made us a great company," Fortinberry said.

Contact TIM HIGGINS at 313-222-8784 or thiggins@freepress.com.

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