Big Blue Gorilla A Casualty of Auto Dealer Closures

Garden Grove – Union Chrysler Jeep Dodge, which is widely known for its iconic giant blue gorilla on its roof, is slated for closure only months after the Garden Grove City Council gave the dealership $270,000 in January to try to save the troubled dealer.

Commuters on the 22 may no longer see the inflatable area landmark as they whizz by on the freeway if owner Frank Lee is forced to close his Chrysler dealership, and the city of Garden Grove may stand to lose millions in tax revenue and loan repayments. Chrysler has released a list of 789 dealers that are targeted for closure, and the Garden Grove dealer, located at 9898 Trask Ave., is on the list.

City Council members agreed help reimburse the company’s 2006-2007 loan payments in an agreement with the Garden Grove Redevelopment Agency (another hat worn by the City Council) which waived a 5% interest fee if the dealership earned a minimum of $28 million in sales each year.

All went well from 2002 – 2005, but the following two years, Union Dodge failed to meet its sales quota, only generating $235,000 of the required $280,ooo in 2006 sales taxes, and $197,000 in 2007. The City Council agreed to average sales over the last six years to help the Dodge dealership and came up with the $270,000 figure.

In 2001, Union Dodge  had originally gotten a $2.2 million loan in partnership with Chrysler to expand its service bays and expand its car storage lots. The redevelopment agency had agreed to pay owner Frank Lee once a year for the next 15 years, based on sales tax to facilitate the expansion and encourage the business. If the agency uses the average sales for each year, then Lee doesn’t have to pay the interest on the loan. Now, Chrysler is pulling the plug.

The question is what the city will do with the loan and the property if Union Dodge goes dark. How will Garden Grove recoup its investment?

 Lee, who came here from South Korea in 1974 started the business in 1995. His eldest son Charles Lee is currently listed as the principal owner.

  1 comment for “Big Blue Gorilla A Casualty of Auto Dealer Closures

  1. OCGator
    May 15, 2009 at 8:05 am

    Way to go Mayor, how much more of the peoples money are you going to give away??

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