Mul­lane sell­ing car lot, sig­nal­ing shift in in­dus­try

‘Megadeal­ers’ with sev­eral stores make it dif­fi­cult for stan­dalones to com­pete

The Buffalo News - - BUSINESS - By Matt Glynn NEWS BUSI­NESS RE­PORTER

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.

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