General Motors has 4,500 employees at its Lordstown plant in Warren, Ohio, which makes the Chevrolet Cruze. So what's it like to be the local Nissan dealer?
Not easy, says Bill Sims. And he says Nissan North America should have considered that before moving to terminate his franchise in 2009. Last month an Ohio court agreed.
Sims is a Buick-GMC dealer who took over the Nissan point in Warren in 2001. Before taking action against him, Nissan labeled Sims' dealership the worst-performing Nissan store in his 13-state region. In 2008 and 2009 Sims says he averaged about 13 new-car sales per month.
Sims protested to the Ohio Motor Vehicle Dealers Board, pointing out that the local retail market is stacked against non-GM brands because GM provides discounts to Lordstown employees, their family members and friends and thousands of retirees.
In court, Sims' lawyers said Chevrolet's local market share is double its state average, while Toyota, Nissan and Honda hover at about half of their state average.
"We're talking about an old steel town where they never liked imports," said Sims' lawyer, Chris DeVito. "There are 40 years of GM retirees still getting discounts on GM cars and trucks. And my client is still managing to run a profitable dealership there. How can you compare his performance against a dealer who doesn't have to contend with all that?"
The Ohio board blocked the termination last year. Nissan appealed the ruling in state court, which upheld the board's decision. A Nissan spokesman declined comment.