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Don Lee of Hanlees Auto Group

Hanlees Auto Group — along with president Don Lee — plans to buy the Napa Chrysler dealership.

The owner of Napa’s Subaru and Volkswagen dealership, Don Lee of Hanlees Auto Group, has agreed to buy Napa’s Chrysler dealership for an undisclosed amount.

The news comes just days after Napa Chrysler filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The business, owned by Patrick Smorra, Jr., also sells Jeep and Dodge vehicles.

“Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge are very, very good franchises,” said Don Lee, “and we’re certainly interested in expanding in Napa.”

Lee said that although he’s in negotiations to buy the dealership, he was not aware that Napa Chrysler would seek bankruptcy protection.

He’s not sure how the bankruptcy filing will affect the agreement. “I’ve never been involved in this type of transaction,” said Lee. However, he plans to go forward with the purchase, he said.

The attorney representing Napa Chrysler in the the bankruptcy case, Steven M. Olson, said the bankruptcy court will have to give permission to sell the business to a potential buyer. The funds from that sale would be used to pay Napa Chrysler creditors.

Smorra could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

This would be Hanlees’ first Chrysler franchise, said Lee. Hanlees’ other auto dealerships in Davis, Fremont and Richmond include Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai, Chevrolet, Subaru and Volkswagen.

If all goes as planned, Lee hopes to take over Napa Chrysler in mid- to-late March.

Napa Chrysler has more than 20 employees, said Lee. “Our current plan is to retain as many as we can.” The business will remain at its current site, 333 Soscol Ave.

As with his Subaru and Volkswagen dealership, the Gasser Foundation will also be Lee’s landlord at Napa Chrysler.

“The Gasser Foundation has enjoyed a landlord/tenant relationship with Hanlees Napa Inc. and Don Lee since he acquired Jenson Motors in April, 2014,” said Joe Peatman, president of the Gasser Foundation.

“We will look forward to an enhanced and continued relationship. We believe Hanlees Napa and Don Lee to be a very experienced and capable owner and operator of automobile dealerships.”

The Chrysler dealership seems to have suffered from a tarnished reputation in recent years. On Yelp, the business averages a two-star rating on a five-star scale.

The Better Business Bureau gave the current dealership an “F” rating, in part based on its failure to respond to nine complaints filed against business.

In 2014, Smorra dropped the Volvo part of the auto business, citing low sales. Smorra’s family has owned the dealership since 1995. Before then, it was known as Barwick Motors.

“I cannot comment on what has happened with Smorra’s organization,” said Lee, “but what I do know is that we should be able to institute our philosophy and our process in place and things will turn for the better.”

He plans to improve the business and increase inventory. “Certainly we will increase our staffing level to serve the community better, both in sales, and service and parts,” he said.

“We are very high customer service-driven company,” said Lee. “We will continue to apply that philosophy with our new acquisition.”

The business would be renamed and receive Hanlees signs.

“We are very excited to own a second dealership in Napa,” said Lee. “Napa is a great town to do business in. We intend to grow with the city.”

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.

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