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Published: Saturday, 3/6/2010

Brown loses Hyundai franchise

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

A longtime Toledo-area dealer of Korean-made automobiles has had its franchise terminated and no longer can sell or do warranty service on the vehicles, court records show.

The Ohio Motor Vehicle Dealers Board last month upheld a hearing officer's ruling that Hyundai Motors America is within its rights to terminate the franchise of Brown Hyundai, 5625 West Central Ave., Sylvania Township.

Owner Robb Brown has appealed that ruling, but judges in Franklin County Common Pleas court refused to grant a temporary restraining order to stop the termination, state and court records indicate.

Neither Mr. Brown nor his attorney returned calls yesterday seeking comment. An employee at the dealership said sales staff were not legally able to sell any of the approximately 110 new Hyundai cars and sport utility vehicles on the lot.

The termination action, initiated almost a year ago by Hyundai Motors, was the second time in three years that the Korean automaker sought to end its franchise agreement with Brown Motor Sales Co., citing a failure to meet sales goals. Brown has sold Hyundai vehicles since 1989.

Hyundai Motors initiated a similar termination action in 2007 against Brown Hyundai, but the Motor Vehicle Dealers Board sided with the dealership after it protested.

Brown Hyundai is part of the Brown Automotive Group and shared facilities with Mr. Brown's Pontiac operation, which is winding down after General Motors Co.'s moved to drop its Pontiac brand last year.

Brown Automotive Group also has Honda and Mazda dealerships on Central Avenue.

According to a deposition Mr. Brown filed in his case against Hyundai, he said he had acquired a Mitsubishi franchise in December. However, he said projected sales of Mitsubishi and Mazda vehicles would not be enough to sustain the 60,000-square-foot facility and its more than 60 employees without Hyundai. Mr. Brown said the 2009 payroll for the dealership was nearly $2.8 million.

According to sales figures cited in the case and those reported by the Toledo Auto Dealers Association, Brown sold 246 Hyundais during 2007, 298 during 2008, and 229 last year.

By comparison, Taylor Hyundai in Perrysburg sold 297 new vehicles in 2007, 524 in 2008, and 769 in 2009.

Contact Larry P. Vellequette at:

lvellequette@theblade.com

or 419-724-6091.



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