For former Oldsmobile dealer Howard Schnitz, there is life after General Motors.
As a single-line Oldsmobile dealer in Columbus, Ohio, Schnitz was hit hard by GM's decision to close the division. His initial impulse was to find another new-car franchise.
But after crunching the numbers, Schnitz chose to convert his store to a used-truck dealership. On May 1, Key Oldsmobile became Schnitz Automotive - The Truck Outfitters.
"We have a newborn enthusiasm," Schnitz said. "Waking up as an Oldsmobile dealer since Dec. 12 of 2000 hasn't been easy."
Schnitz was referring to the date GM said it would phase out Oldsmobile. GM has not set a closing date.
GM spokeswoman Marcia McGee said that of the 2,801 dealerships Oldsmobile had at the time of the announcement, two-thirds have signed a termination agreement or have agreed substantially on terms and about 2,100 are still operating. Fewer than 1,000 remain in negotiations.
While most Oldsmobile dealers had other franchises, the division's 107 single-line dealers needed to obtain a franchise to stay in business. Schnitz says the financial logic of a used-vehicle store was compelling. Franchise laws prevented him from moving another franchise to his Key Olds location, he said.
"Very honestly, I looked at many stores, mostly GM, and I really felt that the investment quality was poor," he said. "All of the opportunities would have involved the necessity to sell my existing real estate."