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Posted on Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 11:24 a.m.

Ann Arbor's long-time Howard Cooper auto dealership sold to Ohio-based company

By Lizzy Alfs

Ohio-based Germain Motor Company has acquired Ann Arbor's 47-year-old Howard Cooper auto dealership, the company announced Monday.


Howard Cooper opened in 1965 as a Volkswagen dealership and now sells four brands: Volkswagen, Porsche, Audi and Honda.

Photo courtesy of Howard Cooper

The 12-acre South State Street dealership, located north of Eisenhower Parkway, opened in 1965 as a Volkswagen dealership. In 1972, it expanded with the addition of Porsche and Audi franchises, and then added the Honda brand in 1979.

The Ann Arbor dealership employs 90 people, and according to Cooper, retaining those employees was essential to him choosing a buyer.

"My employees are very important to me and the reason for my success," Cooper said. "I know of a couple of buyers who would have paid more, but taking care of my employees was important to me."

The family-owned Germain Motor Co. has nine dealerships in Ohio, seven in Florida and one in both Arizona and Arkansas.

Company President Stephen Germain, in the news release, called the purchase of Howard Cooper a “great opportunity” for his family to expand business into “a good market in a dealership with an outstanding reputation.”

He added: “All four brands have a bright future.”

His daughter, Jessica — who attended the University of Michigan — will help run the company, Germain said.

"I got a buckeye with Steve but a good Wolverine with his daughter," Cooper joked. "(Steve) has an outstanding track record."

Cooper said he decided to sell when he and one of the manufacturers had a fundamental disagreement over market potential. Cooper, 83, said it was a good time for him to exit rather than be involved with legal battles over the next couple of years.

"We had a basic disagreement over market potential. It didn’t look like it was going to be resolved. ... I didn’t want to go through legal process, didn’t need to spend two or three years resolving the issue," Cooper said. "I decided maybe at my age it would be a good time to hang it up. Twenty years ago, maybe it would be a different story."

Cooper would not disclose the financial details of the agreement as the deal is not done yet. He decided to release the information and inform his employees Monday morning of the deal even though everything isn't set in stone yet.

"It's hard to keep these things a secret and I didn’t want my people to hear about it from anyone but me," Cooper said. "I elected to get the information out there to relieve any concerns." reporter Pete Cunningham contributed to this report.

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at Follow her on Twitter at



Sun, Apr 29, 2012 : 1:57 p.m.

so some welcome the change while others were ell satisfied the way things were.such is life.


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 12:01 p.m.

I have always had adequate service from Howard Cooper - sales rep wise - do not know the vehicles they sell - example - I purchased a 2011 cr-v exl - traded in a 2005 cr-v - I was interested in the leather and some of the extras that came with the exl vehilce - namely the automatic headlights - the salesperson insisted the cv-r exl did not have automatic headlights - then I showed them how they worked on the floor model - his response was - I never knew that - when buying - come prepared - the person you speak to may not know what he/she is selling.


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 11:50 a.m.

In the past fifteen years, we've bought three cars from Howard Cooper and one from another dealer. We have been so pleased with the service there and have not had comparable service anywhere else. I've found it impressive to see the same people working there for so long and have felt it must speak to the quality of the company. I'm really surprised to learn from the above comments that some people report having negative experiences with Howard Cooper. I hope this change doesn't decrease the employees' satisfaction with their work or adversely affect the quality of the service provided by the dealership.


Tue, Apr 24, 2012 : 11:55 p.m.

Mr. Cooper is the envy of all of us in Ann Arbor auto industry. He hires and retains excellent people thus his wildly successful long run at the dealership which is NOT located like most in the car store cluster on Jackson Road. I am a service competitor and pretty much the only time I lose a customer to a dealer is when they buy a Honda and experience the service from Cooper Honda. It seems ironic that VW is the impetus for Howard selling as their cars have been truly unreliable and expensive to repair while VW provides barriers to anyone else to repair them. I am pretty sure that most service issues that customers have with Cooper are from the north side of the dealership and those originate with the manaufacturer and not the dealer.


Fri, Apr 27, 2012 : 12:49 a.m.

Out of curiousity Heimer, how do you know he was honest? Did you take it to more than one independent mechanic? Or, did you just take his word?


Wed, Apr 25, 2012 : 7:20 p.m.

This is only my experience, and I recognize that one anecdote doesn't reveal the truth, but when I stopped getting my VW serviced by HC I began to perceive it as a much better car. Not getting nickle and dimed by the service department at the dealership, and instead receiving honest advice from a local, independent mechanic about what was and wasn't necessary, was a revelation.


Tue, Apr 24, 2012 : 1:08 p.m.

Snark, I am sure that was the case..


Tue, Apr 24, 2012 : 1:06 p.m.

Yes, that's right folks, the BRANDS of vehicles sold are very reliable, very pristine... poor representation by the existing management though.

Bells Defranco

Tue, Apr 24, 2012 : 2:47 a.m.

The problem with dealers is that they charge more for maintenance compared to other shops and much of it is unnecessary. And once the snail-mail marketing starts it's near impossible to stop. I go to small-time mechanics and they only fix what needs fixing.


Tue, Apr 24, 2012 : 1:15 p.m.

Bye and large vehicles produced in 2010 and beyond are becoming more technical and expensive to repair and maintain. In particular with keeping up with current CAFA regulations and future regulations. Gone are the days of tossing a new set of plugs into Ol' Betsy and everything is "good to go". Even now many of the Independent facilities are feeling the pinch to keep up with technology. Another thing to keep in mind is that technicians within dealerships receive extensive training to keep up to date on the current technology. Certainly if you own a vehicle with the earlier OB2 technology the aftermarket facilities may possibly be able to service your vehicle. However I would recommend to correctly service and maintain your year 2000 and newer that a "make specific" repair facility, such a dealerships, are the way to go. It's been my experience also that the OEM parts, in particular Asian or German design and manufacture, fit better and work better. Good luck on all your service endeavors!


Tue, Apr 24, 2012 : 1:48 a.m.

I've bought several cars from Howard Cooper and I've been a happy customer. I have noticed, however, that the dealership has not kept up its appearances like other Audi dealerships, and has not made the investment to change the design of its building to meet the designs that I think are mandated by the corporate office. I wonder if that's the dispute that Mr. Cooper was referring to?


Tue, Apr 24, 2012 : 12:35 a.m.

Howard Cooper is a gentleman in every sense of the word and we are extremely fortunate to have him in our midst. He has contributed greatly to our region through his business and through his deep commitment to supporting numerous non-profit organizations.


Tue, Apr 24, 2012 : 12:26 a.m.

My husband and I were car shopping last May. We went to a million dealerships. For the most part we were treated really well by everyone. The guy at the Lexus Dealership was horrific, and we didn't go back. The guy at Howard Cooper was dismissive and not interested in answering questions we had during our test drive. He made it pretty clear that he was hoping the car would sell itself. It didn't. I've owned a Honda and loved it. But, based on how we were treated, I wasn't willing to buy from HC. Here's hoping the new owners can do a better matter where they are from.

Jonathan Blutarsky

Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 11:46 p.m.

I could never figure Cooper's out - I always have to go out of town to to save a few bucks when I buy my cars, and when I take it to Cooper's for service they always seem to treat me like I'm just another customer...


Sun, Apr 29, 2012 : 5:31 p.m.

I guess reading comprehension and use of the word YOUR is not Jared's strong suit.

Jonathan Blutarsky

Tue, Apr 24, 2012 : 12:06 a.m.

Tough crowd!


Tue, Apr 24, 2012 : midnight

Good thing your in retail and not comedy.

Jonathan Blutarsky

Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 11:56 p.m.

It was meant as a joke Jared - I've been doing retail all my life.


Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 11:50 p.m.

Compared to what?


Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 11:46 p.m.

After years of having cars fall apart on me within 5 years, I decided to purchase a Honda CR-V at Howard Cooper Imports in 1998 . The salesman was very low key and supportive of my questions and concerns. Over the years, I have always been very impressed with the courteous service and the clear explanations of what was done to service my car. When my family expanded, I bought an Odyssey in 2005 and it continues to run exceptionally well. BTW, the 1998 CR-V was sold to a friend and is also in great working order. When there are multiple employees who have continued to work at the dealership for 20+ year, that tells me that they want to work in a business that treats its staff and customers well. This is also reflected in the many prestigious awards they've received both locally and nationally. I wish Howard all the best in his retirement.

Robert Jenkins

Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 11:12 p.m.

I have worked at Howard Cooper Honda for 26 years. I know Howard and all the rest of the staff and I must say I find some of the comments here disturbing. The reason we have won so many awards and have so many employees who have worked here over 20 years is because Howard cares about his employees and his customers. If any of you people had a bad experience I would first like to apologize and next suggest you discuss it with a manager. We have all been taught to please the customer and make their experience positive. All of our jobs depend on that. I think and hope there are a lot more people out there who have had positive experiences with us. I'm looking forward to this new change and hope it all works just as well in the future as the last 26 years have for me. Come see us. We are a good group of local people in your community.


Wed, Apr 25, 2012 : 7:12 p.m.

As with most things, you are likely to see more complaints from dissatisfied folks than compliments from satisfied ones. It's a self-selecting sample, and human nature. I suspect that any story on a local news site about a local dealership would garner the same type of response. People enjoy sharing stories of poor service, and especially enjoy participating in a collective gripe-fest about mechanics and car dealers. We are all guilty of it. That being said, dealerships will be more expensive for repairs than other places and people don't like expenses. I went to HC for years for work on my VW because it was convenient. I didn't have many problems, but it's no longer convenient for me so I've discovered the joys of a small, local mechanic. In terms of sales, I thought it was also common knowledge that HC, and many other AA dealerships, don't budge on price.


Wed, Apr 25, 2012 : 2 p.m.

I've brought my Jetta to HC for service for 8 years, and just bought a Tiguan and I plan to use them for my service as well. I've never been impressed by the sales department (wasn't interested in helping me buy the Tiguan I wanted) However, I've always loved the service department. Thanks guys!


Tue, Apr 24, 2012 : 5:28 a.m.

Robert my personal issue has been simply pricing and lack of care the salesmen have shown in earning my business. Over 8 years I've bought an A6, S4, 2 pilots and an odyssey. Everytime HC came in significantly higher than the competition and would hardly budge. Trading in my A6 (Mannheim MMR WAS $9500, retail $12500) and HC Offers me an insulting $3500 for it when I was going to buy a brand new one from him? When I mentioned to used car salesman that I have access to dealer auction and this cars low MMR was $8K his response was "why don't u go sell it there then" (arrogant) well I went to fisher honda got $8500 And a sweet deal on an odyssey ... Arrogance and pricing are the reasons I don't bother with HC anymore while I live around the corner. I convinced my friend 2 weeks ago to purchase his 2011 A8L from somewhere else.


Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 10:17 p.m.

I drive a Honda Civic (my second Honda), and have gone to Howard Cooper for auto service a number of times since about the late 80s. They almost always did a very good job. I hope with the new management, that the service continues to be good.


Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 8:48 p.m.

Oh yeah, let us not forget the revolving door of very poor customer service. I am with you beeswing the customer service being awful, however I do not think it will change unless they clean house with the advisors!


Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 8:18 p.m.

I never felt great about the sales department, they never seemed all that friendly and they seemed hard-edged and a little arrogant when I made any attempts at negotiating but it was the service department I really disliked. The last time I was there, I showed up at my appointed time, went to the desk to check in and I was barely acknowledged. I then waited for about a half hour and was again blown off . When they finally took my info and keys there was no apology and the guy talking to me was at the same time talking to other employees. I vowed never to go back and I haven't. I have also heard from other friends and relatives of having had similar experiences. I now go to the Lexus dealer, I pull up, they open the bay door for me, come to my car to greet me and usher me to a seat. If I am staying they offer me a specialty coffee and biscotti and I have the use of a nice lounge in which to wait--what a difference! Lexus acts like they actually want my business!


Tue, Apr 24, 2012 : 6:20 p.m.

if name changes meant everything then ypsi would have at least one gm dealer . iow its about good ample service from stem to stern imo


Tue, Apr 24, 2012 : 3:12 p.m.

Nor do I believe you, Dorchester. I just asked my daughter, who also has taken the car to be serviced, if she ever experienced the service as you described. She said "Oh, no way!".


Tue, Apr 24, 2012 : 4:05 a.m.

I don't believe you. Howard Cooper's bay door automatically opens as you approach. As you drive in the service reps walk up and greet you while your sitting in your car. In my ten years of using their service, never once did I have to get our of my car to "check in". I hope all goes well in their transition. Good luck!


Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 10:21 p.m.

the latter firm that you speak of is looking for its 4th s/m in less than 2 yrs


Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 10:07 p.m.

Sure, but Porsche and Audi are hardly the cheap seats section and I would expect common courtesy at any dealership, no matter my budget.


Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 9:02 p.m.

Considering the money most folks spend on a Lexus, this is not unusual. If you want pampered service, up your purchase $30-$40k.


Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 7:45 p.m.

HC's service really put me off the few times I've been there, so I don't go there. I can't remember what happened, but once I get a bad taste in my mouth from a place, I avoid it. I've heard negative things about them from others, as I see here. Given that some people have had a good experience there and now that they'll be under new ownership, I may give them another try. It would be more convenient than driving to Lansing or Livonia, so we'll see!


Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 11:26 p.m.

". I can't remember what happened, but once I get a bad taste in my mouth from a place" I hate that place. I have no idea why, but because somewhere in my life I think something happened, I will hold on to that FOREVER.

Jen Baird

Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 7:27 p.m.

I have experienced nothing but outstanding sales and service from Howard Cooper Imports over the past decade. I am glad to see that someone with dealerships around the country will be taking the reins and continuing a great tradition. It is nice to see company owners who value their employees and customers over simply getting every last dollar. Enjoy retirement, Howard! Welcome, Germains!


Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 7:25 p.m.

The caption on the photo is incorrect. Howard Cooper sells Volkswagen, Porsche, Audi, and Honda.

Julie Baker

Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 7:44 p.m.

It has been corrected. Thanks.


Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 7:17 p.m.

Wow - I am going for service there tomorrow - this probably will be the talk of the service bay


Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 9:42 p.m.

@Alvin. I stand corrected. Hopefully all goes well and the new owners are a welcome addition. In my automotive dealership past, I went through a partial ownership change and from my experience I'll say it can go either way.


Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 9:16 p.m.

Actually, djacks24, many of us found out only a few hours before you.


Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 9:07 p.m.

I'm sure they'd known about it long before it hit here. They are most likely sick of talking about it and not looking forward to outsiders bringing it up.


Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 6:22 p.m.

Good! Looking forward to better deals, I hope.


Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 5:17 p.m.

Maybe now I can start buying my Audis and Hondas from Ann Arbor rather than go to Farmington Hills and Ypsilanti. Their sales attitude was always arrogant/stuck-up and not willing to make deals when Fisher Honda for example would sell me cars at least $2000 less and they would refuse to deal. Same on Audi's....I simply avoided even going there over past 5 years and I live down the street. Hopefully this changes...

Richard Carter

Sun, Sep 23, 2012 : 3:04 p.m.

@Jarod, negotiation goes both ways... both sides are trying to get the best deal. That may not be just financial, but other factors come in like (for the buyer) good customer service and (for the seller) keeping a customer who will come back for service and maybe buy a car. If we both try to get the best deal we're going to end up meeting in the middle, or if we can't, then we go looking for a better deal. Nothing immoral about it, as the salespeople are doing their version of the same thing, be it trying to upsell you on some options (extra rustproofing that shouldn't be needed if a car is built properly, etc.), going into the Sales Manager's office and talking football and coming out and telling you they spent a half hour trying to get you a better deal (really? After working together for years they don't both know how far they're willing to go?). And really, who is more expert on negotiating to buy cars -- we who do it every few years, or they who do it constantly?


Fri, May 4, 2012 : 3:59 p.m.

you negotiate by looking around and if someone couldnt give you a better deal they wouldnt . why does cooper outsell fisher ever see the size of the markets and the average incomes


Tue, Apr 24, 2012 : 11:38 p.m.

@Jared...thats just makes no sense. In a free market economy, which we live in, I need to get the best possible deal for myself. I usually guarantee the best price within a 100 mile radius...I see nothing wrong or immoral on saving thousand of dollars by buying my car somewhere else. I mean if Fischer honda is giving me the same car for $2000 less I am supposed to buy it from HC for moral reasons? please!


Tue, Apr 24, 2012 : 8:07 p.m.

@Paul. That is not the way to negotiate. Obviously you are one of those kinds of people that doesn't care about anyone but themselves. All you care about is "the best deal". The best deal for who, you? Give me a break. Your not fair in negotiation, you just want people to give give give, but you don't want to give anything back. Negotiation is made so both parties benefit. It is people like YOU that take advantage of the system and don't care about that person who sells you a car. To you, they are just another pawn. That is not right and not moral.


Tue, Apr 24, 2012 : 5:12 a.m.

Don't be stingy with your money? Really? I'm getting what I want at a significantly cheaper price what's stingy about that? They at Howard cooper simply don't care and yes maybe because they sell a lot of cars...but if I can save 1000s by driving 10miles and get an excellent service by doing so then I am. When I price my car at many dealers in SE MI and even Ohio and howard cooper Always comes highest, they don't earn my business. On my Audi S4 their response was "we don't budge on the MSRP" on this vehicle. Alright so I went to Farmington hills and got it $4000 below MSRP. My Honda pilot and earlier odyssey they were $2000 more than Fischer Honda and refused to match. I'm not mad I just don't shop there for my cars anymore. Obviously they do well and don't need more business. But I shop around and make sure I get the best possible deal...that IS negotiating Johnny


Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 11:28 p.m.

You know, it is kind of funny. Aren't Sales people supposed to make money too? So what, they tried to make a buck on you to support their family. GET OVER IT! I am sure you are all these kinds of people that want everything but don't want to pay for it. You think your doing the sales person a favor from purchasing from them, when reality is, your just giving them a HUGE headache. Do yourself a favor, pay what the car is worth and try not to be so stingy with your money. I purchased a Honda Civic from the salesman and have had nothing but extraordinary service. When you go into a Arby's, do you try and negotiate the #1 large meal? NO! What about a doctors office after you get a bill?? NO!! You all should be ashamed of yourselves.


Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 11:24 p.m.

Maybe they don;t negotiate because you do not know how to do it. Howard Cooper sells far more cars than Fischer Honda, so either they must be doing something right, or some people realize they will pay more for better service. I have never had a single problem when I needed something taken care of by Howard Cooper. Having bought from Varsity Ford, Cueter Chryselr and several dealers in suburban Detroit I have yet to see one that performs like Howard Cooper.

Serene Wolverine

Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 8:11 p.m.

Sounds like you should keep buying your Hondas from Fischer Honda! They have a great service department and better pricing too!


Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 7:48 p.m.

that's exactly why i went to fischer to buy my next vehicle after my experience with Howard Cooper. Terrible service, terrible salespeople.


Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 6:55 p.m.

I replied above about similar experience with their "sales teams". Hate to say it, but I don't see how they stay in business when their salesmen discourage customers from buying...


Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 5:30 p.m.

You make a good point. That's been my experience there too. Since I live here and take my car for service there, I am willing to buy from them, but they aren't willing to deal there. Maybe they think they have a captive market, but with the Internet and other dealers a reasonable distance away, I'm pretty sure HC has lost a lot of sales in recent years. I wouldn't be surprised if the new owner changes this policy. Maybe this sale will be a good thing for everyone around here over the long run.


Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 5:08 p.m.

I've been taking cars there for years. Always really liked the guys in the service department. Frankly I'm surprised to see the negative feedback on the place.


Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 5:05 p.m.

Good! I have never liked Howard Cooper as I have found the customer service awful, particularly in the service department. I am hoping improvements in service will come along with the change of ownership.

Martha Andrews-Schmidt

Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 5:03 p.m.

I've been buying cars from Howard Cooper and getting them serviced there since 1967, and I'm going to miss Cooper's hand in the business. I *will* give the new owners a chance, but I hope they know that they have a big boots to fill.


Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 4:18 p.m.

Who in Ann Arbor would buy a car from a Columbus Ohio business I know I wont


Tue, Apr 24, 2012 : 6:16 p.m.

like the wendys comment but c/bus oh and aa/det are 2 different markets the latter of which is much tougher on imports . ask mack buick and melton honda /vw who are no more


Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 11:19 p.m.

So nobody from Ann Arbor has ever eaten at a Wendy's (based on Columbus)? Nobody in Ann Arbor has shopped at The Limited retailers either (based in Columbus). There are dozens of others based there that have locations in Ann Arbor. I suppose nobody in Columbus has ever ordered a Dominoes pizza either. Silly useless comment.


Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 4:06 p.m.

Not just Ohio-based, Columbus, Ohio-based. The Germains are coming.


Tue, Apr 24, 2012 : 1:37 a.m.

Well played, sir.


Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 9:22 p.m.

I'm sorry, but your comment is not germane. :-)


Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 4:15 p.m.

Hahaha! Thanks, I needed that laugh today!

Dog Guy

Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 3:57 p.m.

Germain Motor Company? Putting on airs by affecting a French accent on "German"!

Martha Andrews-Schmidt

Mon, Apr 23, 2012 : 5 p.m.

Germain Motor Company is owned by a family named Germain. It is what it is: just a name. No airs intended.