The following statement from Paul Mullane in recent Newsletter:
I have written this newsletter thousands of times in my head. Finally I am putting this to paper. After 90 years in business, and 4 generations of Mullane’s, I have decided to sell Mullane Motors. It is perhaps the hardest decision that I have ever made and obviously it didn’t come without a ton of soul searching, discussions with my inner circle, and a ton of angst and stress.
I would like to fill you in on some of my thought process, as well as some of the details that I am able to share. I just turned 58 years old and really am not ready to officially “retire”. However there are several reasons why now is the right time for me to pull the trigger.
The number of new car dealers across the country continues to dwindle…rapidly! The number of “rooftops”, that is the total number of dealerships remains relatively static, but the number of individuals that own these dealerships is much lower than it ever has been. Megadealers that own several stores is the wave in the industry. That makes it much harder for the small and medium sized dealers like Mullane Motors to compete with the “big” guys. The big guys are able to reduce their costs on advertising, personnel expenses, and insurance, among many others. They are able to sell from each other’s lots both new and used cars. They are able to share employees and equipment. The bottom line is that megadealers have a huge cost advantage over guys like us.
Although it was 10 years ago now, in many ways it seems like it was last week that Chrysler was going through bankruptcy. Needless to say those were really ugly times for us Chrysler dealers. We have certainly turned the corner and now Chrysler (officially it is FCA…Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) is on a roll and doing as good as I can ever remember. That means our dealership went from a value of virtually nothing to perhaps more than it will ever be worth.
The news this week that General Motors in laying off some 14,000 workers and closing 5 factories is also a little disconcerting. Although I don’t think the economy will crash like it did in 2008, I do see some storm clouds forming. Many factory programs are geared toward the larger dealers. Although I don’t like many of the programs, I understand the factory folks are running their business the way they think works best for them. Obviously the programs have been working for Chrysler as it continues to set sales and profits records. Unfortunately what is best for the factory isn’t always best for us dealers.
I have been selling cars for 42 years. I started selling cars when I was a Junior at DeSales Catholic High School, and been selling ever since. I graduated college in 3 years so I could join the working world sooner rather than later. I spent a year in North Carolina selling Toyota’s and gained valuable experience before coming back to work for my dad and uncle in 1982. I am grateful for the opportunity that I had at Mullane Motors.
So…what now? I have sold the dealership to the West Herr organization. Everyone in Western New York certainly knows who West Herr is. For those of you who don’t, we are the 24th dealership that they purchased. Last year they collectively sold over 50,000 vehicles. For comparison, we sold around 1200. They are truly the behemoth in the area, and one of the bigger dealer groups in the United States.
Why West Herr? There are really just a few dealer groups in Western New York, and West Herr is by far the biggest. This entire transaction started last winter and is finally almost done. I have talked with a few dealers that sold to West Herr and they were all very happy. They consistently win awards for “Best Place to Work in WNY”. My biggest concern going forward was that our employees would be well taken care of. Although I am sure it would have worked with other dealer groups, all the arrows kept pointing to West Herr. My dealings with their President, Scott Bieler have been nothing short of professional. There was a hiccup or two along the way, but nothing that we didn’t both overcome and a deal was signed on September 28th. Their team came in and introduced themselves to our crew on my mother’s birthday, October 2nd. Just prior to the introduction one of our sales people came running in to say a truck was on fire behind the body shop! So, rather than this announcing this pretty big news, there were volunteer fireman, firetrucks, and 3 Niagara County Sheriff cars all running around. I am not sure if my mom or dad was trying to tell me something from above or not?
When Scott introduced himself to everyone, he began by telling them that contrary to popular belief, at the West Herr organization, the customer is not Number 1. He explained that the employee is Number 1. It is a philosophy that we have lived by for generations. And every one of our employees has been offered a job and as far as I know, everyone is staying. Actually, some of them are really fired up about having more cars to sell from, more advertising budget, more of everything. I am pretty excited for their opportunities…and in some ways jealous.
So now what? To be honest, I am not sure. I am going to take some time to decompress from this long process. I am so lucky to have two wonderful daughters each married to great guys. And we are blessed with three terrific grandkids. They will be seeing much more of Grandma and Grandpa Mullane. Other than that, my immediate goal is to see as little snow as possible. That isn’t a great plan for retirement…but it is a start.
Speaking of Grandma Mullane, I have to give a shout out to my wife Annette. I met her at Mullane Motors in 1979. She has put up with me for a LONG time…and this past year has been pretty stressful! My buddy Gary Brown has been married just about the same number of years as Annette and I. He told his wife Lynn that if she enjoyed the first 35 years of marriage, the best is yet to come! That is a plan that I aspire to!!!
I have to give a huge thanks to our fantastic customer base. Many have been loyal to Mullane Motors for longer than I have been here. Without you we wouldn’t have survived for long selling Chrysler products in a city that boasts a very successful General Motors factory. I cherish the support and friendship that you have shown me and Mullane Motors for many decades. For many of those years the products that we sold were not the best. Remember the Volare?
I have to give a shout out to many of the Chrysler folks that I grew up with as well. Dick Farr, Jeff Komor, Charlie Glymph, Ralph Smith, Maria Faklaris, Paul Falitico and many others. These guys and girls still bleed Chrysler blue regardless of who “owns” us today! Thank you for all you have done for us over these many years.
I mentioned earlier that my biggest concern remains our employees. They have been the strength of our dealership forever. Once again, a few of them outdate me! Dan Salmons is going on 43 years here! I am going to miss them more than they know. My morning sessions with Laurie Helfrich, Kurt Kaufman, Tim Winklemann, my sister Pat has been therapy for a long time. The West Herr guys recognize how good this crew is…and have told me that many times! I know they will do fine.
All of the sales crew is staying. Steve Whalen is even hiring an assistant…his daughter Sheila! Bruce Tarnowski has a several good years left. Mark Doel will be here to help you with your U-Connect system. So…rest assured that although many changes are going to take place…many things will stay the same!
Thank you for reading my newsletter for many years. I loved the feedback…both good and bad! Hey…you never know, you may just be reading my next version…Thoughts from Paul Mullane…former automobile dealer! God Speed everyone!