Chrysler Corp. will keep most of the 1,200 new-car dealerships gained in its $2 billion takeover of American Motors Corp.

But many of those former AMC shops will have to work overtime to improve their customer-satisfaction ratings, which are among the worst in the U.S. auto industry.

That is the essence of the message Chrysler officials will give today in their first meeting with AMC dealer representatives, whose members became part of the Chrysler organization last week when AMC stockholders voted overwhelmingly to approve the merger.

Chrysler officials acknowledged that they will meet with the AMC dealers' group today in Highland Park, Mich., but they declined comment on the session's agenda. But AMC dealer sources and auto industry analysts familiar with Chrysler's plans say that the company will urge the AMC group to refurbish its showrooms and strengthen its sales and service staffs to help make the merger work.

"Chrysler needed another established distribution network, which was one of the reasons it wanted AMC," said Christopher Cedergren, chief auto industry analyst for J.D. Power and Associates, an auto-marketing research firm in Westlake Village, Calif.

Integrating the AMC dealers with the existing 4,054 Chrysler dealers may be messy because many Chrysler dealers do not want to handle AMC products, other than the famous Jeep brand. And AMC dealers are worried that the few best sellers they have will be given to Chrysler, said Jack Mayne, editor of Auto Age, a national auto dealers magazine based in Van Nuys, Calif.

In all likelihood, according to AMC officials and industry analysts, the four-wheel-drive Jeep and its derivatives will remain with the AMC dealers, who will operate under Chrysler's new Jeep-Eagle division. The Renault-designed Medallion and Premier passenger cars are likely to be sold by Jeep-Eagle, too, the officials and analysts said.

The AMC-dealer group, which has been around since 1954, has rarely occupied a high place in buyer esteem, and most recent surveys rank the group at the bottom among auto dealers, Cedergren said.

"AMC ... owners were among the least likely to be satisfied with dealers selling their make of vehicle and the least willing to recommend their servicing dealer to friends or relatives," according to a Power and Associates report this year on car-buyer attitudes.

AMC, which was 46.1 percent owned by French auto maker Renault before the Chrysler takeover, had begun a program aimed at improving dealer service. But even with those efforts, "Chrysler will need to consider the possible impact of these new dealers on its own customer satisfaction performance," the Power report said.

Both Chrysler and AMC dealer sources say that the company is not likely to take any direct steps to push out underperforming dealers. Nor does Chrysler have any plans to eliminate "dualing" among former AMC dealers, sources say.

"Dualing" occurs when one dealer sells several competing vehicles -- such as those made by Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. An estimated 75 percent of the former AMC dealers are dual operations, largely because AMC historically had difficulty keeping its dealers supplied with an adequate variety of AMC-made competitive products.

Chrysler will be careful in its handling of the dual AMC dealers, as it will in its actions toward unsatisfactory AMC dealers, because the company wants to keep as many AMC shops as possible, said Mayne.

Also, Chrysler wants to avoid lawsuits, Mayne said. "A number of AMC dealers are looking at federal and state laws governing the relationship between auto manufacturers and their dealers. {Chrysler Chairman Lee A.} Iacocca doesn't want to get involved in any messy litigation," Mayne said.

Chrysler's current 7-year, 70,000-mile powertrain warranty will not apply to the Jeeps, "because it does not apply to off-road vehicles," a Chrysler spokesman said. The Renault-designed cars, the Alliance and Medallion that are currently sold by Jeep-Eagle, will be covered by Renault's six-year, 60,000-mile power-train warranty, the AMC spokesman said.

The Premier will be introduced as a 1988 model later this year