Cessation of the Cessna Aircraft piston-engine dealer network in the lower 48 states came as no shock to existing dealers because by February there were no dealers. Northland Aviation Services in Fairbanks, Alaska, is now the only Cessna dealer left in the United States. At least five former dealers have been offered contracts (including nondisclosure agreements) for piston-engine referrals, and most plan to sign.
Payments will vary according to the model. Beechcraft already had factory-direct piston-engine sales at the time of its acquisition by Textron. It has attempted to replace dealers with regional sales representatives. Cessna officials said they would not comment on the referral network. A brief statement earlier this week announced the end of the dealer network:
“Textron Aviation continues to assess its operational footprint requirements to ensure the needs of our customers are met. Maintaining and growing relationships with our customers is our highest priority and we are always evaluating the best complement of sales and service resources around the globe. Our U.S. customers can now purchase directly from the factory, which ensures our ability to meet their acquisition needs whilst giving us the opportunity to build relationships and gain their direct feedback regarding products, features and services which they perceive will benefit them throughout their ownership experience,” the statement said.
Dealerships for piston-engine aircraft continue overseas.
Some former dealers aware of details of the new arrangement question whether there are enough personnel in the factory representative model to make it work, and indicate there is grumbling within the ranks about the change. One even predicted Cessna might be forced to return to dealerships if the factory-direct effort fails, but others indicated there is no turning back.
Preparation for the move to factory-direct sales began at least five years ago when existing dealer contracts were not renewed on expiration. That has accelerated in the past two years. While it isn’t certain that only five were offered referral contracts, that is the number heard most often. They are Lanier Flight Center in Atlanta; Air Orlando in Orlando, Florida; Van Bortel Aircraft in Arlington, Texas; Tom Wood Aviation in Indianapolis; and Pacific Air Center in Long Beach, California. Finder fees will increase with the price of the aircraft.