Medford auto dealer John Skinner has agreed to sell his Cadillac and Buick franchises to Airport Chevrolet and Dollar GMC, owned by Alan DeBoer and Dave Mills. Bob Pennell / Mail Tribune photo - Bob Pennell

Medford's Skinner agrees to sell GM dealerships

For the first time in more than 80 years, Medford auto buyers will have to visit separate dealerships if they want to look at Cadillacs and Buicks.

Auto dealer John Skinner said Wednesday he has agreed to sell his Cadillac and Buick franchises to Airport Chevrolet and Dollar GMC, respectively. The two dealerships are owned by Alan DeBoer and Dave Mills.

The deal is the result of an agreement between General Motors and Skinner that ends his family's 89-year run with GM. The final papers were expected to be signed today.

Skinner Autoplex, at the corner of South Pacific Highway and Garfield Street in Medford, will continue selling used cars and trucks and become a nationally franchised Meineke Car Care Center and EconoLube outlet.

Mills said the dealership on Biddle Road will be known as Airport Chevrolet Cadillac, and the lot at Riverside Avenue and 10th Street will be known as Dollar Buick GMC.

Skinner Autoplex was one of more than 1,000 GM dealers nationwide that were informed a year ago that they were losing their franchises. When GM reinstated hundreds of dealers last month, John Skinner said he expected to be among them.

Instead, a GM representative arrived, telling Skinner the company wanted to combine its local Cadillac and Chevrolet franchises under one roof, and put Buick together with GMC.

Many dealers, including Skinner, were scheduled for arbitration to determine their future.

"I had a choice," Skinner said. "I was scheduled for arbitration and GM kept offering me more money and more money."

"After going over this 100 times, I knew we would have won arbitration and GM knew that, too. They wanted Cadillac and Chevrolet together and GMC and Buick together," Skinner said. "Somebody had to give up something to meet their alignment," said Skinner, whose family has held both franchises since the 1920s. "I had to do this or there wouldn't have been a Cadillac dealer here. They might have reinstated Buick, but there would have been no Cadillac dealership."

The GM brand names displayed at dealerships are property of the company. The Cadillac and Buick signs at Skinner's lot will soon be removed and new ones will go up at the Airport and Dollar dealerships.

GM has been negotiating with Skinner about shifting the Cadillac franchise for about four years, DeBoer said.

"It's a tough situation all the way around for John and GM," DeBoer said, "but we are all moving forward and we were glad to assist John in getting a settlement."

The change means the Skinner family has come full circle in the auto business, John Skinner said.

"When my grandpa started, he had a GM service franchise," he explained. "In those days, GM had separate franchises for service and sales. He was a mechanic and didn't want anything to do with selling cars, but he was eventually forced to sell them."

Skinner said his company sells about 65 used cars monthly and he expects that number to increase as he adds more Ford and Chrysler products and import vehicles.

"The strength of our business has always been service, and we're going to be able to do that cheaper now," he said. "General Motors bases what it pays for warranty work on a dealer's labor rate, so you have to raise your labor rates to cover costs. We'll be expanding our service department now and our labor rate will go down."

Mills said the Airport dealership will stock 20 to 25 new Cadillacs and Dollar will have 25 new Buicks on hand. The dealerships can also trade cars with regional dealers in the interim.

"We'll probably start ordering 2011 models next week, and they will start showing up at the end of July," said Mills, who got his first job in the auto industry washing cars for John Skinner's dad in 1964.

"My dad was a mechanic for Skinner before he retired in 1982," Mills said.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail

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