When Brad Scott's father put him in charge of his family's Scott Volkswagen in East Providence, R.I., in 2004 at age 25, he felt like he had been "thrown to the wolves," he recalls.
He worked 70-hour weeks. His managers, who were old enough to be his parents, were uncooperative. Sales suffered. After about a year, he went to his father for a heart-to-heart talk.
"I told my father, 'Look, I need you to come back and train me or send me to school," recalls Scott, now the store's 33-year-old general manager.
When the youthful son or daughter of the dealership owner takes over the family store, it isn't always a smooth transition. Though it may seem that they are born into privilege, the children of dealership owners interviewed by Automotive News for this 40 Under 40 special section give compelling accounts of how they learned and earned their place in the family business.
Under Dad's gaze
Many, such as Scott, did so with Dad looking over their shoulder.
In 2006, Scott graduated from the National Automobile Dealers Association's Dealer Candidate Academy.
"That really gave me the nuts and bolts to really turn things around," he says. "I got in a 20 group immediately after that to keep my education going and we've continued to grow and build."
Angela Falzon admits that she made mistakes when she started working in the finance department at her family's Signature Ford of Perry in Perry, Mich. But even with training and experience she had to overcome some employee resentment. She calls it "dealer's-kid syndrome."
"I had to work really hard to gain their trust," says Falzon, 25. "The dealer's kid stigma -- it comes with a lot of benefits, but you have to fight for your credibility."
Some youthful dealers wind up in the dealership corner office after tragedy strikes.
That happened to Chadwick Martin, president of Martin Automotive Group in Bowling Green, Ky., and Adam Parks, president of Parks Chevrolet in Charlotte, N.C., and Parks Mazda near Winston-Salem, N.C.
Parks was just 26 when his father, Hubert, died of lung cancer in 2010. "It was tough, I think, because of my age, and there wasn't really a succession plan before he got ill," he says.
Martin was 25 when he took over the family business in 2010, four years after his father, Cornelius, died in a motorcycle accident. He says he is grateful that his mother, sister and brother have faith in his business and leadership skills.
"There wasn't tons of pressure but was the best option for my family at the time. And now, looking back, it was the best option for me," says Martin, now 27.
'Go get yourself a job'
When Matt Browning told his dad he wanted to get into the automobile business, Kent Browning replied, "Great. Go get yourself a job."
With his father's assistance, Browning landed at Toyota of Sunnyvale, Calif., where he spent a year working in a variety of positions. He joined his family's Browning Automotive Group in Cerritos, Calif., in 2006. Browning, now 33, says things worked for the better.
"I don't feel it would have been the best thing for me to go and sell cars at the store I run now," he adds.
Conversely, Jamie Darvish, the 37-year-old vice president of DARCARS Automotive Group in Silver Spring, Md., got all his retail training under the wing of his father, John.
Darvish said he'd never questioned doing anything else, adding: "I've always had a passion for it."
Nick Bunkley, Jamie LaReau, Christina Rogers, Bradford Wernle and Amy Wilson contributed to this report