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Most young people go through a phase when they become acutely embarrassed of their parents.

For Rick Ricart, that was amplified by his mother and father’s song-and-dance numbers – in TV ads no less – for Ricart Automotive. Their tag line: “We’re dealin’.”

Most young people go through a phase when they become acutely embarrassed of their parents.

For Rick Ricart, that was amplified by his mother and father’s song-and-dance numbers – in TV ads no less – for Ricart Automotive. Their tag line: “We’re dealin’.”

Jessica Germain not only watched her dad on TV in ads for Germain Motor Co. but also co-starred in them, from preschool all the way through high school. She provided the tag line: “That’s right, daddy.”

Now the two – and others of their generation in the new-car business – are stepping into starring roles in their families’ businesses and the TV commercials that drive business to them.

Ricart manages his family’s Hyundai, Nissan, Mazda, Kia and Mitsubishi franchises in Groveport. Germain manages her family’s newly acquired Honda dealership in Dublin.

They represent only two examples of the sometimes complicated succession processes at work in family businesses, repeated at other car dealers locally and across the country, as current leaders think about how, and when, to hand off responsibility.

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At Chesrown Chevrolet Buick GMC in Delaware, owner Jim Gill works alongside his son Ryan, 31, who is the dealership’s used-car manager. Steve Lindsay, 31, is general manager at Lindsay Honda on the Southeast Side, where his father, Bert, is the owner.

“I definitely see it as my responsibility, and I take the responsibility, to keep (the business) going,” Ryan Gill said.

While Fred Ricart’s antics were staple fare on Columbus TV stations, Rick was in school and endured constant ribbing from his classmates. People would hum the songs from the ads and offer their own off-color commentary.

“I developed some thick skin,” he said.

The family entered the business in 1953 when Paul Ricart, Fred’s father, bought a small Ford franchise in Canal Winchester. Paul passed the business on to his sons, Fred and Rhett, who are now co-owners. Fred oversees marketing and Rhett oversees day-to-day operations. One of Rhett’s sons, Jared, is also in the business.

Rick, 31, is the second-oldest of five children. He attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas and then transferred to Northwood University in West Palm Beach, Fla., one of the few colleges that offers a degree in automotive marketing and management.

He returned to central Ohio in 2003 and got a job at Ricart Chevrolet in Whitehall, a franchise the family has since sold. He worked his way up from salesman to his current job, which is one step removed from the top of the company.

Nobody would confuse Rick with his father. Onscreen, the father strummed a guitar, danced and found ways to turn familiar tunes into sales pitches. The son keeps it simple. He puts on a tie and looks into the camera.

“What you see is what you get,” he said. “I’m not a great actor.”

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His father is often his toughest audience.

“I’m trying to encourage him to play some guitar on the air so he doesn’t bore these people to death,” Fred Ricart said.

Ricart’s ads might have a new star, but the irreverent tone remains. A recent spot was a parody of MTV’s Cash Cab, with Rick playing the role of the driver and alerting his passengers to the savings they had won.

Germain, 29, took a less direct route into the family business. She was an English major at the University of Michigan and earned a law degree from Capital University. She spent the last two years working cases for Shayne Nichols LLC in Columbus.

“I wanted to try something different” from the car business, she said.

But she was always a part of the business. She began showing up in her father’s ads as a child, and central Ohio watched her grow up as his co-star. The year before she started law school, she worked as a sales associate at her family’s Easton Lexus store.

Last year, when the family’s company acquired Immke Northwest Honda, her father asked her to be the store’s general manager. The dealership is one of the oldest and largest in the region, with more than 140 employees.

Her first ad for the dealership reintroduced her to local viewers.

She wasn’t trying to break any barriers, but her new role makes her unusual in central Ohio and the retail-auto industry as a whole. Top managers are overwhelmingly male.

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“The car industry hasn’t caught up to the world,” Germain said.

One of her goals is to make car-buying friendlier to women, including sales, financing and repair service.

Both Germain and Ricart are taking classes at the National Automobile Dealers Association’s Dealer Academy, a program that trains new executives on all parts of the car business. They have six weeks of classes in McLean, Va., spread over a year.

One of the instructors, Bill Adkins, says that young managers often need to learn patience. They come into the business with plenty of new ideas, but then get frustrated when they see how difficult they are to implement.

“Younger people want it now,” he said.

It doesn’t help that auto retailing is more complicated than ever.

“What Ricky has to do is 10 times harder than it used to be,” Fred Ricart said. “There used to be fewer dealers, the margins were bigger and Internet was nonexistent.”

Even with all those challenges, Rick Ricart is eager to take on more responsibility.

“My ultimate goal is to get to the point where my dad and uncle can relax and know the business is in good hands,” he said.

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