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Steinbach Dodge Chrysler has been sold to Birchwood Automotive Group.

Paul Neustaedter informed his staff late Friday and then Monday morning the transition began to the Chipman family.

The dealership was founded by A.D. Penner back in 1937 and was first called, Penner Dodge. Then in 1961, he was joined by his son-in-law Jim Neustaedter. Neustaedter took over as Manager of Penner Dodge Chrysler in 1966 and purchased the business five years later.

In 1977, the business was sold to A.D.'s son Charles Penner. Four years later, Penner took over the Chev Olds dealership, meaning the Dodge Chrysler franchise was available once again. In January of 1982 it was awarded to Jim Neustaedter and Steinbach Dodge Chrysler was born.

In the years to come, the auto dealership was the Jeep Eagle and Plymouth franchises and as a result, Steinbach Dodge Chrysler became Manitoba's largest full-line Chrysler dealership. Then in 2011, it grew to include Fiat of Steinbach.

Neustaedter says Monday, December 4, 2017, is a big day for him. He joined the family business in 1988. But he clearly remembers a conversation he had with his father many years earlier when the business had been sold to Charles Penner.

"I was twelve years old and (Dad) told me, 'Paul the dealership's sold' and that day he promised he would do his very best to give me an opportunity," recalls Neustaedter. "And wow what an opportunity I've had. So I'm so thankful to my Dad."

According to Birchwood CEO Steve Chipman, it was a couple of years ago when he sought out Neustaedter. He told Neustaedter then to give him a chance if he ever thought of selling. Neustaedter says the two sides have been in talks for several months and struck a deal in the last couple of weeks.

"I understand his work ethic, his community involvement, we are on the same wavelength that way," says Chipman. "Paul and I are good friends."

Birchwood Automotive Group started in 1964 and has been a family business for 53 years. They own 18 dealerships in Winnipeg, Brandon and Cavalier, North Dakota. Chipman says they employ 1200 and the acquisition of Steinbach Dodge Chrysler marks their first Chrysler dealership. The dealership will change its name to Steinbach Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram.

"It's a vibrant community," says Chipman, when asked why they decided to get their foot in Steinbach. "Everything I know about Steinbach tells me this is a great place to do business."

Neustaedter says the fact a Winnipeg based company has taken over the Steinbach dealership, should not concern anyone that it will lose its community involvement. In fact, he says Birchwood Automotive Group was picked because of how incredibly community minded the business is.

"It had to be good for our customers, it had to be good for our staff, and it had to be good for the community," says Neustaedter. "Just so blessed that we were able to find this group, who is a group that's involved in Manitoba, believes in Manitoba and believes in the future of Manitobans."

Chipman says the dealership has 32 full-time staff and a number of part-timers. All staff will keep their jobs, including Robert Dueck who will stay on as General Manager.

He adds they are leasing the property from Neustaedter and have obligations under that lease agreement. Chipman notes they have not considered any future plans to expand or move locations.

As for Neustaedter, he says beginning Tuesday he will set up his office at Steinbach Trailers & RV.

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