It’s been nearly five years since Chrysler terminated the Rimrock Chrysler-Jeep store, along with over 700 other stores across the country. Co-owners Stephen A Zabawa and John Soares Jr. believe they’re getting very close to re-opening.
“This is going to be a landmark case for all the other terminated dealers out there,” says Zabawa. Mr. Zabawa and his business partner, John Soares, are currently waiting for a ruling from the Motor Vehicle Division of the Montana Department of Justice. This ruling will give them a thumbs up, or, it will be back to the drawing board.
About a year ago, Zabawa joined Bill Underriner, a fellow Billings dealer (who also had a Chrysler dealership terminated) before the Montana Legislature. Their mission: to rewrite Montana motor vehicle law to prevent other dealers from running the same gauntlet.
Rimrock Auto Group has not given up since the Chrysler-Jeep store was terminated, reinstated and challenged. Over the past years, Zabawa has taken his children’s advice and brought Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz to Billings, as well as Subaru and Kia.
“The manufacturers totally appreciate what this little market is about,” Zabawa says. “The imports are coming in. And Chrysler sees the potential for growth here.”
“I’m confident things will go our way. Any day now.”
The process of trying to reopen Rimrock Chrysler Jeep:
• 2009: Chrysler terminates Rimrock’s Chrysler-Jeep dealership in Billings.
• 2009: Lithia Motors’ Dodge store in Billings is awarded the Chrysler and Jeep franchises.
• June 2010: Rimrock wins arbitration ruling against Chrysler in Montana to restore the dealership. Chrysler issues Rimrock a letter of intent to reopen.
• February 2011: Lithia protests the award under Montana’s dealer franchise law, which considers Rimrock a new dealership.
• April 2012: Chrysler and Rimrock jointly contest Lithia’s protest, arguing that Rimrock’s reinstatement will benefit the Billings market.
• June 2012: Montana’s attorney general decides in favor of Lithia.
• July 2012: Chrysler and Rimrock appeal the decision.
• April 2013: The state reviews the appeal.
• Present: The parties await a ruling.
To read the entire interesting story of this long and difficult process, please visit our friends over at AutoNews.com.