RCW 46.96.110

Designated successor to franchise ownership.

(1) Notwithstanding the terms of a franchise, (a) an owner may appoint a designated successor to succeed to the ownership of the new motor vehicle dealer franchise upon the owner's death or incapacity, or (b) if an owner who has owned the franchise for not less than five consecutive years, the owner may appoint a designated successor to be effective on a date of the owner's choosing that is prior to the owner's death or disability.
(2) Notwithstanding the terms of a franchise, a designated successor described under subsection (1) of this section may succeed to the ownership interest of the owner under the existing franchise, if:
(a) In the case of a designated successor who meets the definition of a designated successor under *RCW 46.96.020(5)(a), but who is not experienced in the business of a new motor vehicle dealer, the person will employ an individual who is qualified and experienced in the business of a new motor vehicle dealer to help manage the day-to-day operations of the motor vehicle dealership; or in the case of a designated successor who meets the definition of a designated successor under *RCW 46.96.020(5) (b) or (c), the person is qualified and experienced in the business of a new motor vehicle dealer and meets the normal, reasonable, and uniformly applied standards for grant of an application as a new motor vehicle dealer by the manufacturer; and
(b) The designated successor furnishes written notice to the manufacturer of his or her intention to succeed to the ownership of the new motor vehicle dealership within sixty days after the owner's death or incapacity, or if the appointment is under subsection (1)(b) of this section, at least thirty days before the designated successor's proposed succession; and
(c) The designated successor agrees to be bound by all terms and conditions of the franchise.
(3) The manufacturer may request, and the designated successor shall promptly provide, such personal and financial information as is reasonably necessary to determine whether the succession should be honored.
(4) A manufacturer may refuse to honor the succession to the ownership of a new motor vehicle dealer franchise by a designated successor if the manufacturer establishes that good cause exists for its refusal to honor the succession. If the designated successor of a new motor vehicle dealer franchise fails to meet the requirements set forth in subsections (2)(a), (b), and (c) of this section, good cause for refusing to honor the succession is presumed to exist. If a manufacturer believes that good cause exists for refusing to honor the succession to the ownership of a new motor vehicle dealer franchise by a designated successor, the manufacturer shall serve written notice on the designated successor and on the department of its refusal to honor the succession no earlier than sixty days from the date the notice is served. The notice must be served not later than sixty days after the manufacturer's receipt of:
(a) Notice of the designated successor's intent to succeed to the ownership interest of the new motor vehicle dealer's franchise; or
(b) Any personal or financial information requested by the manufacturer.
(5) The notice in subsection (4) of this section shall state the specific grounds for the refusal to honor the succession. If the notice of refusal is not timely and properly served, the designated successor may continue the franchise in full force and effect, subject to termination only as otherwise provided under this chapter.
(6) Within twenty days after receipt of the notice or within twenty days after the end of any appeal procedure provided by the manufacturer, whichever is greater, the designated successor may file a petition with the department protesting the refusal to honor the succession. The petition shall contain a short statement setting forth the reasons for the designated successor's protest. Upon the filing of a protest and the receipt of the filing fee, the department shall promptly notify the manufacturer that a timely protest has been filed and shall request the appointment of an administrative law judge under chapter 34.12 RCW to conduct a hearing. The manufacturer shall not terminate or otherwise discontinue the existing franchise until the administrative law judge has held a hearing and has determined that there is good cause for refusing to honor the succession. If an appeal is taken, the manufacturer shall not terminate or discontinue the franchise until the appeal to superior court is finally determined or until the expiration of one hundred eighty days from the date of issuance of the administrative law judge's written decision, whichever is less. Nothing in this section precludes a manufacturer or dealer from petitioning the superior court for a stay or other relief pending judicial review.
(7) The manufacturer has the burden of proof to show that good cause exists for the refusal to honor the succession.
(8) The administrative law judge shall conduct the hearing and render a final decision as expeditiously as possible, but in any event not later than one hundred eighty days after a protest is filed.
(9) The administrative law judge shall conduct any hearing concerning the refusal to the succession as provided in RCW 46.96.050(2) and all hearing costs shall be borne as provided in that subsection. A party to such a hearing aggrieved by the final order of the administrative law judge may appeal as provided and allowed in RCW 46.96.050(3).
(10) This section does not preclude the owner of a new motor vehicle dealer franchise from designating any person as his or her successor by a written, notarized, and witnessed instrument filed with the manufacturer. In the event of a conflict between such a written instrument that has not been revoked by written notice from the owner to the manufacturer and this section, the written instrument governs.
[ 2010 c 178 § 5; 1989 c 415 § 11.]

NOTES:

*Reviser's note: RCW 46.96.020 was alphabetized pursuant to RCW 1.08.015(2)(k), changing subsection (5) to subsection (4).