(a) Order or accept delivery of any new motor vehicle, part or accessory of the vehicle, equipment or any other commodity not required by law which was not voluntarily ordered by the new motor vehicle dealer. This section does not prevent the manufacturer or distributor from requiring that new motor vehicle dealers carry a reasonable inventory of models offered for sale by the manufacturer or distributor;
(b) Order or accept delivery of any new motor vehicle with special features, accessories or equipment not included in the list price of the new motor vehicle as publicly advertised by the manufacturer or distributor;
(c) Unreasonably participate monetarily in any advertising campaign or contest, or purchase any promotional materials, display devices, display decorations, brand signs and dealer identification, nondiagnostic computer equipment and displays or other materials at the expense of the new motor vehicle dealer;
(d) Enter into any agreement with the manufacturer or distributor or do any other act prejudicial to the new motor vehicle dealer by threatening to terminate a dealer agreement, limit inventory, invoke sales and service warranty or other types of audits or any contractual agreement or understanding existing between the dealer and the manufacturer or distributor. Notice in good faith to any dealer of the dealer's violation of any terms or provisions of the dealer agreement is not a violation of this article;
(e) Change the capital structure of the new motor vehicle dealership or the means by or through which the dealer finances the operation of the dealership if the dealership at all times meets any reasonable capital standards determined by the manufacturer in accordance with uniformly applied criteria;
(f) Refrain from participation in the management of, investment in or the acquisition of any other line of new motor vehicle or related products, provided that the dealer maintains a reasonable line of credit for each make or line of vehicle, remains in compliance with reasonable facilities requirements and makes no change in the principal management of the dealer. Notwithstanding the terms of any franchise agreement, a manufacturer or distributor may not enforce any requirements, including facility requirements, that a new motor vehicle dealer establish or maintain exclusive facilities, personnel or display space, when the requirements are unreasonable considering current economic conditions and are not otherwise justified by reasonable business considerations. The burden of proving that current economic conditions or reasonable business considerations justify exclusive facilities is on the manufacturer or distributor and must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence;
(g) Change the location of the new motor vehicle dealership or make any substantial alterations to the dealership premises, where to do so would be unreasonable; and
(h) Prospectively assent to a release, assignment, novation, waiver or estoppel which would relieve any person from liability imposed by this article or require any controversy between a new motor vehicle dealer and a manufacturer or distributor to be referred to a person other than the duly constituted courts of the state or the United States, if the referral would be binding upon the new motor vehicle dealer.
(2) A manufacturer or distributor may not do any of the following:
(a) Fail to deliver new motor vehicles or new motor vehicle parts or accessories within a reasonable time and in reasonable quantities relative to the new motor vehicle dealer's market area and facilities, unless the failure is caused by acts or occurrences beyond the control of the manufacturer or distributor, or unless the failure results from an order by the new motor vehicle dealer in excess of quantities reasonably and fairly allocated by the manufacturer or distributor. No manufacturer or distributor may penalize a new motor vehicle dealer for an alleged failure to meet sales quotas where the alleged failure is due to actions of the manufacturer or distributor;
(b) Refuse to disclose to a new motor vehicle dealer the method and manner of distribution of new motor vehicles by the manufacturer or distributor, including any numerical calculation or formula used, nationally or within the dealer's market, to make the allocations;
(c) Refuse to disclose to a new motor vehicle dealer the total number of new motor vehicles of a given model, which the manufacturer or distributor has sold during the current model year within the dealer's marketing district, zone or region, whichever geographical area is the smallest;
(d) Increase prices of new motor vehicles which the new motor vehicle dealer had ordered and then eventually delivered to the same retail consumer for whom the vehicle was ordered, if the order was made prior to the dealer's receipt of the written official price increase notification. A sales contract signed by a private retail consumer and binding on the dealer is evidence of each order. In the event of manufacturer or distributor price reductions or cash rebates, the amount of any reduction or rebate received by a dealer shall be passed on to the private retail consumer by the dealer. Any price reduction in excess of five dollars shall apply to all vehicles in the dealer's inventory which were subject to the price reduction. A price difference applicable to new model or series motor vehicles at the time of the introduction of the new models or the series is not a price increase or price decrease. This subdivision does not apply to price changes caused by the following:
(i) The addition to a motor vehicle of required or optional equipment pursuant to state or federal law;
(ii) In the case of foreign made vehicles or components, revaluation of the United States dollar; or
(iii) Any increase in transportation charges due to an increase in rates charged by a common carrier and transporters;
(e) Offer any refunds or other types of inducements to any dealer for the purchase of new motor vehicles of a certain line-make to be sold to this state or any political subdivision of this state without making the same offer available upon request to all other new motor vehicle dealers of the same line-make;
(f) Release to an outside party, except under subpoena or in an administrative or judicial proceeding to which the new motor vehicle dealer or the manufacturer or distributor are parties, any business, financial or personal information which has been provided by the dealer to the manufacturer or distributor, unless the new motor vehicle dealer gives his or her written consent;
(g) Deny a new motor vehicle dealer the right to associate with another new motor vehicle dealer for any lawful purpose;
(h) Establish a new motor vehicle dealership which would unfairly compete with a new motor vehicle dealer of the same line-make operating under a dealer agreement with the manufacturer or distributor in the relevant market area. A manufacturer or distributor shall not be considered to be unfairly competing if the manufacturer or distributor is:
(i) Operating a dealership temporarily for a reasonable period.
(ii) Operating a dealership which is for sale at a reasonable price.
(iii) Operating a dealership with another person who has made a significant investment in the dealership and who will acquire full ownership of the dealership under reasonable terms and conditions;
(i) A manufacturer may not, except as provided by this section, directly or indirectly:
(i) Own an interest in a dealer or dealership;
(ii) Operate a dealership; or
(iii) Act in the capacity of a new motor vehicle dealer: Provided, That a manufacturer may own an interest, other than stock in a publicly held company, solely for investment purposes;
(j) A manufacturer or distributor may own an interest in a franchised dealer, or otherwise control a dealership, for a period not to exceed twelve months from the date the manufacturer or distributor acquires the dealership if:
(i) The person from whom the manufacturer or distributor acquired the dealership was a franchised dealer; and
(ii) The dealership is for sale by the manufacturer or distributor at a reasonable price and on reasonable terms and conditions;
(k) The twelve-month period may be extended for an additional twelve months. Notice of any such extension of the original twelve-month period must be given to any dealer of the same line-make whose dealership is located in the same county, or within twenty air miles of, the dealership owned or controlled by the manufacturer or distributor prior to the expiration of the original twelve-month period. Any dealer receiving the notice may protest the proposed extension within thirty days of receiving notice by bringing a declaratory judgment action in the circuit court for the county in which the new motor vehicle dealer is located to determine whether good cause exists for the extension;
(l) For the purpose of broadening the diversity of its dealer body and enhancing opportunities for qualified persons who are part of a group who have historically been under represented in its dealer body, or other qualified persons who lack the resources to purchase a dealership outright, but for no other purpose, a manufacturer or distributor may temporarily own an interest in a dealership if the manufacturer's or distributor's participation in the dealership is in a bona fide relationship with a franchised dealer who:
(i) Has made a significant investment in the dealership, subject to loss;
(ii) Has an ownership interest in the dealership; and
(iii) Operates the dealership under a plan to acquire full ownership of the dealership within a reasonable time and under reasonable terms and conditions;
(m) Unreasonably withhold consent to the sale, transfer or exchange of the dealership to a qualified buyer capable of being licensed as a new motor vehicle dealer in this state;
(n) Fail to respond in writing to a request for consent to a sale, transfer or exchange of a dealership within sixty days after receipt of a written application from the new motor vehicle dealer on the forms generally utilized by the manufacturer or distributor for such purpose and containing the information required therein. Failure to respond to the request within the sixty days is consent;
(o) Unfairly prevent a new motor vehicle dealer from receiving reasonable compensation for the value of the new motor vehicle dealership;
(p) Audit any motor vehicle dealer in this state for warranty parts or warranty service compensation, service compensation, service incentives, rebates or other forms of sales incentive compensation more than twelve months after the claim for payment or reimbursement has been made by the automobile dealer: Provided, That the provisions of this subsection do not apply where a claim is fraudulent. In addition, the manufacturer or distributor is responsible for reimbursing the audited dealer for all copying, postage and administrative costs incurred by the dealer during the audit. Any charges to a dealer as a result of the audit must be separately billed to the dealer;
(q) Unreasonably restrict a dealer's ownership of a dealership through noncompetition covenants, site control, sublease, collateral pledge of lease, right of first refusal, option to purchase, or otherwise. A right of first refusal is created when:
(i) A manufacturer has a contractual right of first refusal to acquire the new motor vehicle dealer's assets where the dealer owner receives consideration, terms and conditions that are either the same as or better than those they have already contracted to receive under the proposed change of more than fifty percent of the dealer's ownership.
(ii) The proposed change of the dealership's ownership or the transfer of the new vehicle dealer's assets does not involve the transfer of assets or the transfer or issuance of stock by the dealer or one of the dealer's owners to one of the following:
(A) A designated family member of one or more of the dealer owners;
(B) A manager employed by the dealer in the dealership during the previous five years and who is otherwise qualified as a dealer operator;
(C) A partnership or corporation controlled by a designated family member of one of the dealers;
(D) A trust established or to be established:
(i) For the purpose of allowing the new vehicle dealer to continue to qualify as such under the manufacturer's or distributor's standards; or
(ii) To provide for the succession of the franchise agreement to designated family members or qualified management in the event of death or incapacity of the dealer or its principle owner or owners.
(iii) Upon exercising the right of first refusal by a manufacturer, it eliminates any requirement under its dealer agreement or other applicable provision of this statute that the manufacturer evaluate, process or respond to the underlying proposed transfer by approving or rejecting the proposal, is not subject to challenge as a rejection or denial of the proposed transfer by any party.
(iv) Except as otherwise provided in this subsection, the manufacturer or distributor agrees to pay the reasonable expenses, including reasonable out-of-pocket professional fees which shall include, but not be limited to, accounting, legal or appraisal services fees that are incurred by the proposed owner or transferee before the manufacturer's or distributor's exercise of its right of first refusal. Payment of the expenses and fees for professional services are not required if the dealer fails to submit an accounting of those expenses and fees within twenty days of the dealer's receipt of the manufacturer's or distributor's written request for such an accounting. Such a written account of fees and expenses may be requested by a manufacturer or distributor before exercising its right of first refusal;
(r) Except for experimental low-volume not-for-retail sale vehicles, cause warranty and recall repair work to be performed by any entity other than a new motor vehicle dealer;
(s) Make any material change in any franchise agreement without giving the new motor vehicle dealer written notice by certified mail of the change at least sixty days prior to the effective date of the change;
(t) Fail to reimburse a new motor vehicle dealer, at the dealer's regular rate, or the full and actual cost of providing a
loaner vehicle to any customer who is having a vehicle serviced at the dealership if the provision of the loaner vehicle is required by the manufacturer;
(u) Compel a new motor vehicle dealer through its finance subsidiaries to agree to unreasonable operating requirements or to directly or indirectly terminate a franchise through the actions of a finance subsidiary of the franchisor. This subsection does not limit the right of a finance subsidiary to engage in business practices in accordance with the usage of trade in retail or wholesale vehicle financing;
(v) Discriminate directly or indirectly between dealers on vehicles of like grade or quantity where the effect of the discrimination would substantially lessen competition; and
(w) Use or employ any performance standard that is not fair and reasonable and based upon accurate and verifiable data made available to the dealer.
(3) A manufacturer or distributor, either directly or through any subsidiary, may not terminate, cancel, fail to renew or discontinue any lease of the new motor vehicle dealer's established place of business except for a material breach of the lease.
(4) Except as may otherwise be provided in this article, no manufacturer or franchisor shall sell, directly or indirectly, any new motor vehicle to a consumer in this state, except through a new motor vehicle dealer holding a franchise for the line-make covering such new motor vehicle. This subsection shall not apply to manufacturer or franchisor sales of new motor vehicles to charitable organizations, qualified vendors or employees of the manufacturer or franchisor.
(5) Except when prevented by an act of God, labor strike, transportation disruption outside the control of the manufacturer or time of war, a manufacturer or distributor may not refuse or fail to deliver, in reasonable quantities and within a reasonable time, to a dealer having a franchise agreement for the retail sale of any motor vehicle sold or distributed by the manufacturer, any new motor vehicle or parts or accessories to new motor vehicles as are covered by the franchise if the vehicles, parts and accessories are publicly advertised as being available for delivery or are actually being delivered. All models offered for sale by the manufacturer, without any enrollment, surcharge, unreasonable facility or building or any other unreasonable type of upgrade requirement or acquisition fee, shall be available to the franchised dealer at no additional cost for that particular model of vehicle.
Note: WV Code updated with legislation passed through the 2015 Regular Session
The WV Code Online is an unofficial copy of the annotated WV Code, provided as a convenience. It has NOT been edited for publication, and is not in any way official or authoritative.