Practice/Industry Group Overview
The retail automotive industry is multifaceted, and the legal and business issues that are part of a successful business cross many disciplines for the owners and the dealerships. This industry is constantly growing and there are new players entering the market on a seemingly daily basis. Owning and operating a dealership or a dealership group is a great business to be in, but it seems the landscape is ever changing.
Compounding an already complicated business reality are changing market forces that affect automakers, suppliers, vendors, and consumers. Anything that affects these third parties will have an effect on the dealers either directly or indirectly, so dealers are forced to pay attention and at times, modify business practices in reaction to changes with these third parties. In addition, Federal legislation and regulators are constantly reviewing finance and other laws that impact the auto retail industry on enforcement and compliance standards and efforts often fluctuating. State legislation relating to franchise matters, facility obligations, ongoing consumer relationships, establishments of new dealer points, rights of first refusal, vehicle allocations, warranty repairs, used vehicle sales, and other aspects of the business seem to be constantly changing as well.
With all of the business and legal issues surrounding dealership operations and growth, dealers also need to address succession matters not only for their own family well-being, but often at the urging of the manufacturer. Planning for future growth and having the ability to take advantage of opportunities with an already successful dealership or dealership group can be important whether the goals are growth of the business, planning for the next generation or preparing to exit at the top of your game.
Greenberg Traurig’s automotive dealership group works with dealers, investors, buyers, and sellers around the country, providing counsel on the legal and business issues dealers face in a constantly changing industry.
We have significant experience with structuring, negotiating, and managing dealership acquisitions or sales, working on the acquisition, disposition or leasing of dealership real estate, dealership facility projects, structuring and implementing finance relationships for a single point or a multi-state group, advising on manufacturer and vendor relationships and tax analysis and planning for efficient operations and potential exits. With respect to day-to-day operational matters our attorneys advise dealers regularly on employment matters, regulatory issues, litigation, and administering employee benefit plans.
We also have tax and estate attorneys who understand the industry and the unique aspects of manufacturer relationships and how to plan for the future to effectively achieve the tax and planning goals of our clients. Our tax and planning expertise ranges from individuals to large private family offices or other equity sources.
Our wide-ranging industry experience and the firm’s national resources and reach enable us to offer practical legal services to auto dealers around the country in a way that we believe most other firms are not able to provide. Stephen Dietrich, the chair of our Automotive Dealership Practice, would love to learn about your business and share our knowledge and expertise with you.
Multidisciplinary Legal Services for Auto Dealers
- Buying and selling dealerships (asset or stock deals)
- Structuring investments into dealership groups through joint venture, acquisition, or other methods
- Real estate purchasing, sales, leasing, and development
- Dealership acquisition, floor plan, term or real estate financing
- Employment law (including litigation and preventative education)
- Employee compensation/ERISA
- Tax structuring for transactions or changes to be more tax efficient in operations
- Land-use and environmental issues
- Vendor contracts
- Manufacturer relationships, including rights of first refusal and facility obligations
- State franchise law
- Consumer complaints and litigation
- Succession and estate planning
- Compliance with the Patriot Act and related legislation
Dealership Acquisitions and Sales
- Represent multiple-franchise, often multiple-state, dealers in buying and selling dealerships around the country
- Negotiate transactions involving multiple-point operations, as well as multiple points in multiple states
- Handle all aspects of the deals, from structuring the LOI, negotiation of the asset and stock transaction to acquisition, mortgage, floor plan, and capital improvement financing to real property acquisition and/or leasing
Structuring Dealership and Subsidiary Retail Operations
- Lead dealers through the potential maze of red tape created by licensing and manufacturer contract issues and various reporting or record keeping requirements under federal or state laws
- Advise on corporate governance matters and contract agreements
- Establish tailor-made ownership structures for new capital partners
- Create and administer employee benefits programs for dealerships
Auto Dealer Litigation
- Defend dealers against consumer and employee claims, such as financing issues or discrimination charges
- Defend against tax issues and class action suits
- Assist negotiations with manufacturer requirements for showroom remodeling and upgrades
- Offer preventative counsel to help clients avoid future litigation with respect to employment, consumer, and tax matters
Active Involvement in Industry and Dealer Organizations
- Significant relationships with accounting, operational, and service professionals in the industry
- Working relationships with most major traditional and non-traditional lenders and finance sources in the industry