When car dealer Michael Yates died of COVID in March 2021, his daughter, Whitney Yates Woods, applied to General Motors for the Arizona store’s franchise.
Contrary to popular belief, dealership franchises today are not the birthright they once were.
Owners’ kin may have a leg up if they are an upstanding part of the family business. But today automakers won’t award a franchise to an unqualified family member.
Yates Woods (pictured, below left), however, was well-positioned to take over Yates Buick GMC, founded by her father 37 years ago.
She had worked at the dealership in Goodyear, in metro Phoenix, since the age of 15. Her stints included marketing and customer service. She learned much over the years from her dad, who, she says, “fought” for his life upon contracting COVID.
Yates Woods enrolled in the NADA Academy, the National Automobile Dealers Assn.’s auto-retailing training institution for dealer candidates. With GM’s stamp of approval, she’s now Yates Buick GMC’s dealer principal.
Unlike some longtime dealers who’ve bristled at retailing BEVs, she is plugged into the automaker’s vision of battery-electric vehicles.
The dealership is investing $500,000 in new BEV-related equipment, charging stations and technician-training programs.
The store will be the first in the region to receive the new, all-electric GMC Hummer. Three are due to arrive, all pre-sold.
“Our initial investment paid for a supercharging station, a regular electric(-vehicle charging) station, special lifts for the new EV cars, training for our sales and service representatives, as well as additional training for our soon-to-be EV specialists,” says Yates Woods.
GM is on its way to an all-electric future, with a commitment to 30 new global EVs by 2025.
“Yates Buick GMC is totally aligned with that mission, and we knew we had to move fast if we wanted to be one of the first to make this meaningful transition,” says Yates Woods.“People who visit the dealership can already see some of the big changes that are under way.”
The dealership employs 108 people. “There is an excitement about EVs among the staff,” Yates Woods tells Wards.
She thinks BEVs will catch on particularly in urban markets. “Our location and demographics are ripe for EVs. You see a lot of Teslas on the road here. All the dealers in my area are pumped about EVs.”
GM plans to design, engineer and produce EVs for every style and price point.
On the pricy end of the spectrum is the Hummer, which retails for $109,000. Yates Buick GMC has taken 100 customer reservations. A more affordable version is in the works.
Before GM killed it off during the last big recession, the original Hummer had become a poster child for gasoline-hungry, eco-unfriendly big SUVs. (Many environmentalists singled it out for criticism, even though its fuel economy was better than some of its fellow titanic competitors.)
The GMC Hummer BEV is the antithesis of that. In the early stage of production, it’s already created a buzz, Yates Woods says. “This is just the beginning. We plan on keeping future customers in the know as our dealership becomes a valuable and reliable resource for all things related to EVs.”
Steve Finlay is a retired WardsAuto senior editor. He can be reached at [email protected].