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HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. — Dealers who have lost their franchises have the opportunity to keep their businesses and facilities running through a new automotive program from Sears.

Basically, through the Independent Sears Auto Center franchise program, dealers can run their own licensed Sears Auto Center, where they can center their operations on parts and services, over-the-counter merchandise and used-vehicle sales.

Officials said these new franchises can offer the same products and services as the approximately 850 company-owned Sears Auto Centers. These include:

—A selection of tires from such brands as Michelin, Goodyear, BF Goodrich and Bridgestone, just to name a few.

—DieHard batteries.

—Such maintenance and repair services for consumer and commercial fleets as oil changes, alignments, shocks, brakes, coolant/antifreeze, air conditioning, transmissions and fuel system cleaning, just to name a few.

—Custom wheels, car care products, truck boxes, fluids, floor mats, DieHard battery chargers, DieHard portable power, XCargo carriers and more

Moreover, several of these Sears Auto Centers will be housed next to pre-owned vehicle and body shop operations, allowing dealers to offer consumers a convenient shopping and service resource.

"The Sears Auto franchise is a win for customers and a win for dealers," stated Bill Jackson, senior vice president of Sears Holdings Corp. and president of Sears Authorized Independent Auto Centers LLC. "For customers, Sears Auto Centers will be more convenient than ever, with more locations providing our full product and service offerings.

"This is also a great opportunity for dealers who are currently selling used cars to gain a brand that's nationally recognized for quality and dependability, a resource for buying high-quality auto parts and supplies, and access to a proven business model that has been tailored to their needs," he continued.

The first dealer to utilize this program is Coleman Auto Group in East Windsor, N.J., which plans to launch its Sears Auto Center next month.

The group is using the space previously occupied by its Chrysler dealership.

"We're thrilled to join the Sears Auto Center network. No other opportunity combined so many features that we needed as we sought to stabilize our business and position it for future growth," said Bill Kendall, of Coleman Auto Group.

"Already, we've witnessed the level of support and care that Sears has invested in our success," he added. "And we are ready to work hard to leverage the strengths that Sears brings to our existing relationships with customers." 

Sears said its auto center franchise model can be utilized immediately by qualified dealers. 

"We are creating an opportunity to leverage Sears Automotive's scale, business processes and brands so that dealers can build their businesses in service, parts and used vehicles," Jackson said.

"Our franchisees are great businesspeople with years of experience in selling and servicing vehicles," he added. "They have great facilities that need to be used to their fullest. Together, we can provide each other a great opportunity to grow our businesses."