I covered General Motors Co. as it entered bankruptcy just over a year ago.
In doing so, I called many dealers who got termination letters. As I’d listen to their stories, I’d hear tears in their strained voices while they explained how their stores had been in their families for decades. One’s father was a prisoner of war, and the store was his pride. Many described employees as being like family.
I remember one GM dealer in particular. He described being so depressed at the thought of losing his business that he often could not sleep. When he would manage to fall asleep, it was often on his kitchen floor. He’d awake still in his work clothes.
I called him the other day to see how he was doing. Listening to him, I got that same sick-in-the-gut feeling as I did a year ago.
You see, legally he had to make a choice: either arbitrate or accept a cash settlement.
Arbitration is risky. If he wins, great! If he loses, it’s total ruin for his business. He will get no cash settlement and he will lose the dealership.
He described the whole ordeal as “a nightmare upon nightmare.”
He told me he still had fight in him but that at some point “reason took over.”
So he opted for the settlement.
He now hopes he can hang on by selling used vehicles or a few new ones he buys from other dealers until he maybe can get a new franchise.
Then he told me he didn’t sleep last night.