"I knew something was up," he said a few hours later.
The dealership where Bowen is general manager joined six others in Connecticut — one of which closed last month — on the list of 789 franchises nationwide, among 3,200, that Chrysler is revoking as part of its bankruptcy reorganization plan.
"We wish there was a better way, but there isn't," the letter said.
Bowen, like owners and managers at other targeted Connecticut franchises, said that the sudden loss felt like a betrayal, but that ultimately it was not likely to cripple their businesses.
Enfield Chrysler, for example, already sells five used cars for every new one and it remains "very sound financially," he said. It will not go out of business and it won't lay off any of its 21 employees, not immediately, anyway, Bowen said.
Still, said Bowen, who started as a salesman at the same dealership, "I'm a little hurt right at the moment. ... It's a personal thing. I've put 35 years of my life into this."
Chrysler, the beneficiary of $4 billion in federal loans, said that it has too many dealers competing with each other.
General Motors, which also is reorganizing under federal supervision, said Thursday that it intends to notify 1,100 of about 6,000 dealers today that they will lose their franchises. GM said that it intends to revoke a total of 2,600 franchises by the end of next year.
A GM spokeswoman said she did not know how many of Connecticut's 60 GM dealers would lose their franchises, and declined to say how they would be notified.
There are about 30 Chrysler dealers in the state, said James Fleming, president of the Connecticut Automotive Retailers Association.
Other Chrysler dealerships whose franchise agreements will be "rejected" pending approval by a bankruptcy judge are Amaral Motors, Newtown; Country Motors, doing business as Bob's Dodge, Naugatuck; Crest Dodge, Woodbridge; Edward J. Wilson's Sons, Torrington; and Falvey's Inc., New London.
"We intend to maintain 'business as usual' with you until the rejection takes place," the Chrysler letter said.
Holley Chrysler Dodge Jeep of Middletown is also on the list, but already closed last month.
"We beat 'em to the punch," said Robert G. Holley, who bought the business in 1987. "We already put in a letter to give them back the franchise a month ago. They're not keeping up on their own paperwork."
Chrysler, which owns the Dodge and Jeep brands, had told Holley that he had to invest $400,000 to remain eligible for inventory financing, he said, adding, "I don't have $400,000."
All 25 of Holley's employees lost their jobs, including his son, a co-owner. Holley is retiring.
Most of the other dealers said they would remain in business as used car dealerships or rely more heavily on the other brands that they sell — Lincoln-Mercury, Mazda and Jaguar, for example, at Crest.