Business

WR car dealer Wiggins filing Chapter 11, hoping to reorganize with new investors

WARNER ROBINS – Car dealer Eddie Wiggins announced today that he is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy but that he hopes to reorganize and remain in business with new investors.

“Our plan is to be closed for New Year’s Day and then be back open Friday with a skeleton crew,” he said. “We hope to go before a judge either Monday or Tuesday and have our reorganization plan approved so we can keep trying to sell cars and keep our employees working.”

Wiggins said he has 47 employees at his Buick, Pontiac, GMC dealership on Russell Parkway.

His financial woes are related to the poor economy that saw his sales drop off by about 50 percent in 2008, but Wiggins said he was forced to file for bankruptcy because he has not been paid about $140,000 in rebate and incentive money he is due from General Motors.

“I don’t owe GM anything, and I’m up to date with GMAC (the financing company for GM dealers). But I’m having to file and notify my creditors because of the cash flow problems from not receiving what GM owes me.”

Wiggins explained that normally he receives rebate payments and payments for warranty work his service department performs every two weeks from GM.

“But I haven’t received any payments since Nov. 27. GM said then they were delaying payment until Dec. 11, but nothing has come from them since then. Smaller dealerships depend on that cash flow to operate, and we haven’t gotten it.”

Wiggins said that although he isn’t behind on payments to GMAC, which finances the new cars on his lot until he can sell them, it had flagged his dealership a few months ago because its sales were off.

“Before, GM would send the rebate checks directly to me, and then I’d pay GMAC and my other creditors,” Wiggins said. “But after GMAC put us on watch, the last check we received was made out to both my dealership and GMAC. We sent it on to GMAC, and they sent back what they owed us. But now GM is saying GMAC has the ($140,000 rebate) payment held up, but GMAC says it hasn’t received the money.”

Wiggins said he has met with GM officials, who offered to take over the dealership, but that he would still be liable for any losses from his used car inventory.

“I think I can sell the used cars without a loss, but I’m not sure GM could, so I decided on filing Chapter 11 so that we may be able to remain in control with the court’s approval,” he said.

Wiggins, who has been in business for 40 years, has been very active in the community and an advocate for Robins Air Force Base.

He said he had been planning to retire at the end of the year but has had to put those plans on hold.

“I even had some commercials in November announcing my retirement. I was going to sell (the dealership) and go home, but then all this came up,” he said.

Wiggins said he hopes he can convince a couple of investors to partner with him, and that the court will approve his reorganization plan to keep the dealership open.

“Hopefully we can get the money from GM and get all this straightened out in 60 or 90 days and go on selling cars and making a little profit. But if not, then I’ll try to sell the dealership. I don’t want to have to just shut it down and let everyone go. I don’t want to do that to the great group of people I have.”

To contact writer Chuck Thompson, call 923-6199, extension 235.

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