Jessica Germain downplays talk of being heir apparent to family’s business.
Steve Germain leads a Columbus, OH-based family dealership group with deep roots and ambitious plans.
Germain Motor began in 1947 when his grandfather, Warren F. Germain, an accountant for Henry, was dispatched to Ohio to open a Mercury dealership. He also less successfully sold Edsels in the 1950s.
Steve’s father, Bob Germain, took over the business in the 1970s and added afranchise in Columbus, followed in the 1980s by three stores in Florida: of Naples, of Naples and Toyota of Sarasota.
The group broadened its Columbus footprint with Mercedes-Benz of Easton and Cadillac of Easton in 2002 andof Dublin in 2010.
“Our growth has been consistent over the last 30 to 40 years. After the recession, it took us a couple of years to regroup and understand what needed to happen,” says Steve Germain, president and CEO since 1995. “We finally felt we were in a position to move forward with some expansion.”
That happened in 2012 with the acquisition of Howard Cooper’s Honda,, Audi and Porsche franchises in Ann Arbor, MI. While terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, published city records indicate a purchase price of $12.1 million.
“Mr. Cooper had owned the stores for 45 years and it was a great opportunity for us to grow the family business in a market that we felt had a lot of potential and with some brands that we had not represented,” Steve Germain says.
When Cooper opened his first store in 1965, the South State Street property was farmland. “People thought I was crazy building so far out from downtown Ann Arbor,” Cooper told the Detroit Free Press in 2012. But he knew plans were in the works for the nearby Briarwood Mall, a major shopping complex.
Germain plans to invest $5 million to $6 million in the Ann Arbor properties to improve the customer experience.
The group opened Germain Infiniti of Easton in 2013 to expand its footprint in the affluent suburbs of northeast Columbus.
Germain is No.77 on the 2014 WardsAuto Megadealer 100. Five Germain stores are on the 2014 WardsAuto Dealer 500.
Germain’s new and used unit sales rose 21%, to 19,676, in 2013 with the addition of the Ann Arbor locations. Total revenue topped $615 million, a 20% increase.
Steve Germain describes his 714 employees as his greatest assets. But he also relies on outside help for inventory management, training and performance metric measurements.
“You can’t do it without our people and our manufacturers, and you can’t do it without our strategic partners,” he says. “They’ve been part of our success in the past and they’ll be part of our success in the future.”