Your current employer is under no obligation to "give you the letter." Likewise, there is nothing they can do to prevent you from accepting employment elsewhere. I am guessing the manufacturer makes the same make of car that your dealership sells. If so, the manufacturer may not want to rock the boat with their dealership, hence the request for the letter. You may want to offer the manufacturer an affidavit wherein you state under oath that you are not under any employment agreement and there is nothing, contractually speaking, that would prevent you from accepting the engineer position. Any experienced lawyer should be able to prepare an affidavit to that extent, and they may even be willing to negotiate on your behalf. Good luck!
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Who is your direct employer? Are you employed by a dealership or by a manufacturer? Do you have a union?
It doesn't look good, honestly. You could choose to quit, but unless Florida has something unusual out there in employment law, there wouldn't be a mechanism to *force* the employer to recommend you to take a job with another department, parent company or affiliate.
Clark County, Nevada practitioner.