Riverhead auto dealer appealing court’s decision in Chrysler case

COURTESY FILE PHOTO | Riverhead supervisor Sean Walter shakes hands with Eagle Auto mall owner Mark Calisi after the Riverhead dealership donated a truck for the town’s Meals on Wheels program.

Eagle Auto Mall on Route 58 in Riverhead is appealing a federal judge’s ruling rejecting claims it made in a lawsuit against Chrysler, where Eagle and two upstate dealerships argued that the deals Chrysler was offering them were not the customary ones offered to other dealers seeking Chrysler franchises.

Eagle Auto Mall was one of 789 car dealers nationwide that lost their Chrysler franchises in 2009 after Chrysler filed for bankruptcy protection.

But since Chrysler had received federal bailout money, Congress set up an arbitration system by which Chrysler dealers who lost their dealerships could apply to get their franchises back.

Eagle Auto Mall was one of only about 15 dealerships nationwide to have their franchises awarded back. But Eagle owner Mark Calisi balked at the conditions Chrysler put on his ownership of the franchise, including requirements that he build a new facility for the exclusive display of Chrysler and Jeep vehicles. Eagle Auto Mall also sells Kia, Mazda and Volvos, in addition to Chryslers and Jeeps.

The company argued in court that the conditions Chrysler was imposing on them were not “customary and usual” conditions that Chrysler imposed on all of its franchisees.  But Chrysler disputed that argument in court, and U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Wexler on Jan. 24 agreed with them, and dismissed Eagle Auto Mall’s case.

The judge looked at the letters of intent sent to 135 Chrysler dealerships and found that the requirement for a new site was in 97 percent of the them, and that the two other contested requirements were in 90 percent and 83 percent of the letters, respectively.

Eagle Auto Mall appealed the ruling last week.

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