Morrissey Boulevard car dealer to close

A Morrissey Boulevard car dealership that has been struggling to stay alive after losing its affiliation with Chrysler in 2009 is closing its doors for good. Westminster Motors— formerly known as Westminster Dodge— will shut down its sales and service operation this month, resulting in pink slips for its remaining 30 employees, according to manager Joe Lawlor.

“We’ll have the property through the end of the year, but it’ll close by the end of November,” Lawlor told the Reporter this week.

The business has held a longtime lease on the 92,000 square foot property at 710 Morrissey Boulevard, which is owned by Henry Bloom, Mark Levinson and a realty trust, according to the city of Boston. Last year, the value of the property was assessed at $1.75 million. The Bickford family has operated the car dealership sine the 1960s.

In May 2009, the Westminster dealership was one of 12 Chrylsler affiliates in Massachusetts that lost their affiliation with the company as part of a sweeping reorganization of the company ordered by a federal task force. Westminster mounted an aggressive lobbying campaign to seek a reversal of the decision, made from the car manufacturer’s corporate office in New York. The Bickford family fought the decision and last year they won an arbitration decision to reinstate the Dodge name. But the corporation has not abided by that decision, according to Lawlor. The dealership shifted its focus to pre-owned vehicles in recent months— and laid off 15 people— in hopes of surviving the setback. But, Lawlor says it’s all been too much.

“We haven’t got clarity yet from Chrysler about going forward and without that, we just couldn’t do it,” said Lawlot. “The pre-owned cars were doing pretty good too, but we were paying money to lawyers instead of advertisers— which you need to do in this business.”

“We worked hard, it certainly wasn’t for a lack of trying.”