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LI Chrysler, GM dealers fight closings

At least four Long Island car dealers are among about 1,550 nationally who are formally seeking binding arbitration to reverse the losses last year of their General Motors Co. or Chrysler Group Llc franchises.

Two of the four Long Island Chrysler dealers closed by the automaker -- Eagle Jeep and Chrysler in Riverhead and Island Jeep in Lindenhurst -- have filed paperwork with the American Arbitration Association, according to Mark Calisi, Eagle's owner, and Leonard Bellavia, an attorney from Mineola who represents many of the area's auto retailers.

Chrysler dropped 789 dealerships last year, contending it had too many for its diminished market share.

General Motors notified 2,000 dealers nationally last year that they'd be dropped effective in October. The dealerships were not identified, nor was the number on Long Island ever specified. The Island had more than 40 GM stores at this time last year.

The deadline for seeking binding arbitration was midnight Monday.

Bellavia said at least two and possibly four Long Island GM stores slated for closure have appealed to the arbitration board. He declined to name them.

One Chrysler dealer who is fighting back is Calisi, who depends now on service business, used vehicles and sales of new Kia, Mazda, Volvo and Chevrolet vehicles.

He contends that he was a strong dealer for Chrysler, with sales far above the minimum required for this region. "I am locked and loaded," he said Tuesday.

But at ABC Motors, which formerly sold Chryslers and Jeeps in Valley Stream before losing its franchise agreement, owner Gerard Broschart said he believes Chrysler will fight back and probably win.

"You're just throwing away good money," he said, adding that he still services Chrysler vehicles and retails used cars.

Bellavia said Thomas Dodge in Port Jefferson Station, which also handles Subaru, is not contesting the loss of its Chrysler franchise. Thomas' owner couldn't be reached Tuesday.

Arbitration was provided for under a federal law passed recently by Congress and signed last month by President Barack Obama. The process is not open to franchisees of brands being killed or sold, including Saturn, Pontiac, Saab and Hummer.

With AP and Bloomberg News

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