Virginia motor vehicle authorities have begun a "criminal and administrative" investigation into the collapse of a Fairfax City Dodge dealership, state officials said yesterday.
Their disclosure came as a state judge, sitting in Fairfax Circuit Court, ordered the dealership, Fairfax Dodge Inc., into receivership and directed Chrysler Credit Corp. to take over the firm's records and unsold cars.
The firm, located at 10407 Lee Highway, closed Aug. 21, the fourth Chrysler Corp. dealership in the Washington area to shut its doors since the auto maker disclosed it is facing severe financial difficulty and may need federal help to survive.
The closing has caused troubles for some of Fairfax Dodge's last customers, some of whom have been unable to obtain clear titles to their new automobiles. A lawyer for Chrysler Credit said yesterday that the firm, a subsidiary of the auto maker, hopes to resolve most of the new car title questions within a few days.
It may take longer to clear title questions for purchasers of used cars and people who traded cars with liens on them, the lawyer said.
In Richmond, Jerome L. Stein, a spokesman for the State Division of Motor Vehicles, said the Fairfax Dodge dealership could face other problems. Virginia law requires that a dealership give the state 30 days advance notice before closing, Stein said and "They didn't give us that notice."
He said the division has assigned a special investigator to conduct a criminal and administrative investigation of the closing. "It's certainly creating a little excitement around here," he said.
Fairfax Dodge president Paul Smith said in an interview yesterday that he was "anxious to tell my story" but declined further comment and gave no indication of when he would discuss the closing.
Judge Burch Millsap, who ordered the firm into receivership, did not appoint an individual yesterday to handle the firm's financial affairs. Lawyers said Millsap has a candidate for the position but wanted to talk with him before announcing his appointment.
Under Virginia law a receiver is authorized to handle the affairs of a financially-distressed firm, much as trustees are allowed to handle the affairs of firms under protection of federal bankruptcy courts.