By Brooks Rexroat
Chattanooga auto dealer Grant Law made the biggest sale of his life on Wednesday, and he didn't have to include free oil changes.
Mr. Law said he will sell Newton Chevrolet and Newton GMC-Mitsubishi, ending his family's 78-year affiliation with Chattanooga auto sales.
"I realized at the tender age of 60 that it was time to dedicate more time to community involvement and my family," Mr. Law said. "My 14-year-old son Newton Law and I have a lot more trails to hike, mountains to climb and fish to catch."
Tim Kelly bought the GMC-Mitsubishi dealership, which he called a natural fit with his Cadillac, Subaru, Saab and Hummer brands in Chattanooga.
The Watson family, which owns Mountain View Ford and Mountain View Nissan dealerships downtown, will buy Newton Chevrolet at M.L. King Boulevard and Riverfront Parkway. It will take on the Mountain View name and continue to operate in that location for as long as two years, owner Andy Watson said.
The GMC-Mitsubishi deal includes land and buildings, and the Chevrolet sale involves only the dealership, Mr. Law said.
"I sold GMC lock, stock and barrel, but I retained the Chevy building," Mr. Law said. He plans to lease the lot to the Watson family until the Chevrolet dealership moves, then sell the property.
Mr. Kelly said he will switch the configuration of his dealerships. His Subaru and Mitsubishi dealerships will be downtown, while his Hummer, Saab, and Cadillac brands will join GMC on Chapman Road. Service will be available at both locations.
The move satisfied demands from Detroit, Mr. Kelly said.
"We had some pressure from our manufacturers to get out on that end of town," Mr. Kelly said of Chapman Road. "I'm a big believer in downtown and I always have been, but there's more foot traffic out there. We can keep our downtown location and keep GM happy at the same time."
After the Watson family completed its purchase of Lawrence-Doster Lincoln-Mercury in January, it continued to seek growth opportunities, Mr. Watson said.
"Due to the size of our family, we're acquiring dealerships," Mr. Watson said. "With 13 family members, there are lots of sons and daughters to put to work, so we're in a growth mode."
There are no further concrete growth plans, though the company will keep looking for opportunities, he said.
The Newton deals are pending manufacturer approval, but all the three parties expect the sales to be final by the first week of July. Mr. Law said the sales have been in the works since February.
"I hope I have continued running the business in the manner my father and grandfather would have," Mr. Law said. "We always concentrated on how we treated our customers and our employees."
Emmitt Newton founded the dealership in 1929 and ran it until his death in 1955. The business went to Mr. Newton's son-in-law Halbert G. "Hobby" Law -- Grant Law's father.
Grant Law started sweeping floors at his father's dealership when he was 14 and took over the business in December 1981. He added the Mitsubishi dealership in 1990 and an Oldsmobile-GMC dealership in 1992, purchased at bankruptcy auctions, Mr. Law said.
E-mail Brooks Rexroat at email@example.com