(1) Any designated family member of a deceased or incapacitated new motor vehicle dealer may succeed the dealer in the ownership or operation of the dealership under the existing dealer agreement if the designated family member gives the manufacturer or distributor written notice of his or her intention to succeed to the dealership within one hundred twenty days after the dealer's death or incapacity, agrees to be bound by all of the terms and conditions of the dealer agreement, and the designated family member meets the current criteria generally applied by the manufacturer or distributor in qualifying new motor vehicle dealers. A manufacturer or distributor may refuse to honor the existing dealer agreement with the designated family member only for good cause. In determining whether good cause exists for refusing to honor the agreement, the manufacturer or distributor has the burden of proving that the designated successor is a person who is not of good moral character or does not meet the manufacturer's existing written, reasonable and uniformly applied standards for business experience and financial qualifications. The designated family member will have a minimum of one year to satisfy that manufacturer's written and reasonable standards and financial qualifications for appointment as the dealer and principal.
(2) The manufacturer or distributor may request from a designated family member such personal and financial data as is reasonably necessary to determine whether the existing dealer agreement should be honored. The designated family member shall supply the personal and financial data promptly upon the request.
(3) If a manufacturer or distributor believes that good cause exists for refusing to honor the succession, the manufacturer or distributor may, within forty-five days after receipt of the notice of the designated family member's intent to succeed the dealer in the ownership and operation of the dealership, or within forty-five days after the receipt of the requested personal and financial data, serve upon the designated family member notice of its refusal to approve the succession.
(4) The notice of the manufacturer or distributor provided in subsection (3) of this section shall state the specific grounds for the refusal to approve the succession and that discontinuance of the agreement shall take effect not less than one hundred-eighty days after the date the notice is served.
(5) If notice of refusal is not served within the sixty days provided for in subsection (3) of this section, the dealer agreement continues in effect and is subject to termination only as otherwise permitted by this article.
(6) This section does not preclude a new motor vehicle dealer from designating any person as his or her successor by will or any other written instrument filed with the manufacturer or distributor, and if such an instrument is filed, it alone determines the succession rights to the management and operation of the dealership.
(7) If the manufacturer challenges the succession, it maintains the burden of proof to show good cause by a preponderance of the evidence. If the person seeking succession files a civil action within the one hundred eighty days set forth in subsection (4) of this section, no action may be taken by the manufacturer contrary to the dealer agreement until such time as the civil action and any appeal has been exhausted: Provided, That when a motor vehicle dealer appeals a decision upholding a manufacturer's decision to not allow succession based upon the designated person's insolvency, conviction of a crime punishable by imprisonment in excess of one year under the law which the designated person was convicted, the dealer agreement shall remain in effect pending exhaustion of all appeals only if the motor vehicle dealer establishes a likelihood of success on appeal and the public interest will not be harmed by keeping the dealer agreement in effect pending entry of final judgment after the appeal.
Note: WV Code updated with legislation passed through the 2016 Regular Session
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