Mullane selling car lot, signaling shift in industry
‘Megadealers’ with several stores make it difficult for standalones to compete
Standalone dealerships like Mullane Motors in Lockport are becoming a rarity among the region’s new-car sales lots.
And now its owner, Paul Mullane, is selling the Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram dealership on South Transit Road to West Herr Automotive Group, one of the biggest auto dealer groups in the nation. The deal wraps up 90 years of auto sales history under the Mullane name.
In a Facebook post, Paul Mullane called the sale “perhaps the hardest decision that I have ever made and obviously it didn’t come without a ton of soul-searching, discussions with my inner circle, and a ton of angst and stress.”
But Mullane said he faced up to the realities of the carsales business. “Megadealers” that own several stores are the “wave of the industry,” making it more difficult for small- and medium-sized dealers to compete, he said.
“The big guys are able to reduce their costs on advertising, personnel expenses, and insurance, among many others,” Mullane wrote. “They are able to sell from each other’s lots both new and used cars. They are able to share employees and equipment. The bottom line is that megadealers have a huge cost advantage over guys like us.”
Mullane said his Lockport dealership sold about 1,200 vehicles last year, compared to more than 50,000 sold by West Herr across all of its locations.
Mullane said that before agreeing to sell, he sought assurances from West Herr’s CEO, Scott Bieler, that his employees would be taken care of. West Herr said it will keep the Mullane dealership’s 40 employees, and expects the location’s workforce to grow to about 50 employees as sales volume increases.
Mullane Motors started in Niagara Falls in 1928 and moved to Lockport in 1945. Paul Mullane met his future wife at the dealership and began working there in the early 1980s. He bought the dealership from his father and uncle in 1998.
Mullane said the transaction with West Herr got underway last winter, and a deal was signed in late September. Terms were not disclosed. The dealership, at 6200 S. Transit Road, will be renamed West Herr Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Lockport.
West Herr also sells new Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles at its facilities on Southwestern Boulevard in Orchard Park. And the deal increases West Herr’s presence on South Transit Road, where it operates Honda and Nissan dealerships.
The former Mullane dealership’s new general manager is Mike Tepfenhart, a longtime West Herr employee. The former general manager, Ben MacDonald, will stay with West Herr at a different location.
West Herr CEO Scott Bieler, left, assured Paul Mullane on employees’ future.