Longtime dealer Jack Kain expects more consolidation

Longtime area auto dealer Jack Kain said Friday that he sees potential for more dealership consolidation around Kentucky as the auto industry crisis worsens.

The slowdown in sales already has caused some dealers to close. Earlier this summer, Jeff Sachs Autopark in Frankfort closed after more than a decade in business, as did the Johnny Watkins dealerships in London. Just this week, Lexington's Jaguar and Land Rover dealer closed, opting to service vehicles from a Louisville dealership.

A thousand dealers have closed nationwide this year, said Kain, a former chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association.

Kain said he's had to eliminate several positions at his dealership in Versailles.

"I've never seen times as tough as it is today," said Kain, who has sold vehicles since 1947.

"We're not paying any bonuses this year," he said. "We can't."

Kain said he thinks consolidation is more likely outside of Central Kentucky, where there's less customer traffic, although there already has been consolidation in Lexington.

Earlier this year, Green's Automotive Group on New Circle Road sold the Lincoln and Mercury brands back to Ford. Those are now sold at what was Man o' War Ford and is now Bill Collins Ford Lincoln Mercury-Lexington.

Kain and Paul Cleaver, the head of Freedom Dodge Chrysler Jeep in Lexington, spoke Friday about the proposed $25 billion loan to domestic automakers.

Cleaver was chosen by Chrysler to attend the congressional hearings on the proposal. He was one of only 30 dealers allowed to watch in person, he said.

Cleaver and Kain said they are confident that Congress will act on the proposal, which they defended as a bridge loan to allow the domestic automakers to continue operations.

Congress has asked the auto makers to present a detailed plan on how the money would be used, and further discussion is anticipated in early December.

Cleaver and Kain blamed the country's financial institutions for restricting credit to the point that people can't finance vehicle purchases.

And opposition to the $25 billion loan, they said, could doom companies that have long been large employers and given millions to charities.

"We're forgetting a great industry and what they've done in the past," Kain said. "They need help."