The Schuman Carriage sales building on Beretania Street will soon be a thing of the past.

Schuman Carriage
to shut its doors

The auto dealerships will
let 117 workers go as early
as Nov. 27 after sales attempts fail


All the car dealerships belonging to the 111-year old, four-generation company Schuman Carriage Motors Inc. will close and all 117 employees will be terminated as early as Nov. 27.

Company Chairman Gustav E. Schuman told a group of employees earlier this month that "he's 75 years old and he just wants to get out of the business," said Schuman mechanic Reginald Kort. "Everybody has the right to retire."

There are no relatives who wish to take the reins of the one-time seller of horse-drawn carriages. Richard Schuman, Gustav Schuman's son and an operations manager of Schuman Carriage, also is president of helicopter company Schuman Aviation Co.

The elder Schuman also told employees that the company and General Motors could not come to an agreement in which the automaker would operate the dealerships, Kort said.

The auto dealer's employees and the state received official notice of the company's plans Monday.

Schuman issued a statement yesterday saying it had agreed to end its more than 70-year tenure as a General Motors dealer. Schuman expects the carmaker to announce arrangements for continued GM warranty service in Hawaii before Schuman closes.

The move affects Schuman's Buick, Cadillac, GMC and Hummer automotive lines. Schuman's Subaru dealerships also will close, but the company will remain the Hawaii distributor for Subaru, providing the cars to other dealers.

Schuman President Mark Oshio confirmed the Schuman-owned Subaru dealerships will close, "and then we'll do the next step." He would not elaborate.

The next step could potentially include a new dealership in Kakaako at the site of a former Schuman-owned NAPA auto parts store, according to Kort.

A brisk business

Schuman Subaru in Waipahu operates on land subleased from Tony Hawaii Automotive Group Ltd., which used to have a Mazda dealership at the site. "We've been through this before, ourselves," said President Stan Masamitsu. "I have some empathy for what they're going through."

Retail car sales in Hawaii are beyond brisk across most makes and models, but Schuman's exploration into trying to sell its dealerships over the past several months came up empty.

Overall retail vehicle sales from January through August of this year rose 16 percent from the same period last year, according to figures compiled by R.L. Polk, an automotive data company.

Sales have been "as good as it gets for the last 10 or 12 years," said Curtis Lee, general manager of automotive operations for competitor Servco Pacific Inc. He could not imagine General Motors giving up its share of the high-end auto market "completely -- not without a fight." Cadillac sales are coming back nationwide with new marketing and models, he said.

Servco also does business with General Motors, selling Chevrolet models at some of its Oahu dealerships.

Business relationships

Susan Reyes, manager of dealers and field communications for GM, said she was unaware of any buyer for Schuman.

"Typically, we work with dealers closely and try to search for a purchaser of their business and make it an easy transition," she said.

"We are continuing to focus on having Cadillac, Hummer, Buick and GMC representation in Honolulu."

Reyes declined to comment on the breakup between Schuman and GM.

Breakups between manufacturers and dealers are common on the mainland, but they are uncommon in the islands, said Joe Nicolai, president of the parent company of JN Chevrolet and several other Oahu auto dealerships.

Labor issues

Schuman's 40-odd employees belonging to the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 142 have been working under contract extensions for about a year. The union and the company are in arbitration over an unfair labor practices complaint.

With this latest development, union members have been offered severance packages and final terms are pending discussions between the union and the company.

Word of a possible sale of Schuman Carriage first arose in a company-authored memorandum posted for union employees in January. The memo outlined a two-part goal to avoid reducing personnel and to make departments profitable.

"Should we accomplish these two goals, it is the company's opinion that whoever may consider purchasing Schuman Carriage Company will accept the majority of the union members," the memo said.

Union officials did not return calls seeking comment.

Parts are parts

Schuman once owned several NAPA auto parts stores and a parts warehouse, but sold the bulk of that business to Atlanta-based Genuine Parts Co. in separate deals in 2003 and earlier this year. At the time of the most recent transaction, in June, Schuman planned to close the Kakaako NAPA store and retain ownership of the Kailua location.


Schuman Carriage
history in Hawaii

Highlights of Schuman's 111 years in the islands:

» 1893: Gustav Schuman founds Schuman Carriage Co., selling wagons and carts. No combustion engines.

» 1903: Schuman attends the World Exposition and later ships the first automobile to Hawaii -- the Pope Tribune. The next year, he imports Hawaii's first shipment of Model T Ford horseless carriages.

» 1922: Schuman buys the first building belonging to Central Union Church and opens it as an automotive showroom in 1929. Some 30 years later, the company moves to its current Beretania Street headquarters to make way for a new State Capitol building.

» 1930: G. W. "Scotty" Schuman, Gustav's son, becomes company president. He later introduces the 1941 Cadillac convertible to the islands -- before World War II shuts the company down.

» 1982: Gustav E. "Dutch" Schuman, grandson and namesake of the founder, becomes chairman. Mark Oshio is named president. G.E. Schuman's son Richard is a director and operations manager of Schuman Carriage and is president of Schuman Aviation Co.

» June 2004: Richard Schuman confirms the company is for sale and working on a deal.

» Sept. 27, 2004: Schuman Carriage Motors Inc. announces plans to close its dealership businesses on Beretania Street, in Waipahu, Kaimuki and Kalihi Kai, and to terminate all 117 employees. It will continue its role as the Subaru distributor for Hawaii, supplying the make to other dealers.

Source: Schuman Carriage Motors Inc. archives



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