GIRARD, Pa. — Mike Lockwood says it's hard for him to drive past his vacant Dodge dealership. But in this small town, it's hard to avoid the intersection of Main Street and Sunset Drive.
Lockwood's family once ran a car business that occupied three corners of the intersection, anchored by the dealership. The Lockwood Auto Group is gone now, the victim of a struggling local economy and poor product mix. Since 2005, the company's assets have been tied up in bankruptcy liquidation.
In 2001, Mike Lockwood's older brother, James, who had owned the dealership, died suddenly without a succession plan. The family poured $1 million into the business to keep it afloat, only to discover — too late — that its financial troubles were insurmountable.
Mike Lockwood says his is a cautionary tale about what can happen when a dealership changes hands but critical information about the store doesn't. He hopes that, unlike his brother, other dealers realize the importance of an effective succession plan.
Ideally, a dealer designates an official successor who is trained and prepared to step in. Such planning is crucial, said Paul West, a dealership management consultant to the National Automobile Dealers Association.
West told Automotive News: "If the dealer does not do proper planning, he stands the risk of losing the dealership."
As Mike Lockwood did.