Dealer Groups

Lithia hires first chief tech and innovation officer

MEDFORD, Ore.  - 

Lithia Motors announced its first-ever chief technology and innovation officer on Monday, appointing former Massage Envy franchising executive George Hines to the role.

Hines, who was chief innovation officer for the wellness brand before joining Lithia, has experience in similar innovation and tech positions throughout retail, ecommerce, hospitality and live event marketing.

His tech career began with Ernst & Young and Deloitte Consulting.

“We’re excited to have George’s digital expertise to improve our customer and team member experiences, drive innovation and expand our revenue base,” Lithia president and chief executive officer Bryan DeBoer said in a news release.

He added: “This is an exciting time for our company and the automotive industry. George's ability to deliver customer experiences online and by leveraging a nationwide network of locations will complement our existing strengths and accelerate innovation.

“With the second largest owned vehicle inventory in the nation and service and delivery infrastructure that touches over 80 percent of the country, we look forward to his influence in further unlocking our potential,” DeBoer said.


Zeigler Automotive Group buys 26th store


With a purchase set to close Monday, Zeigler Automotive Group has acquired its fourth Ford store and 26th dealership overall.

The Midwestern dealership group said Friday it has officially bought McCarthy Ford of North Riverside from the LeFevour family, which purchased the store in February 2017.

The dealership had been Joe Rizza Ford for nearly 40 years.  

Its new name will be Zeigler Ford of North Riverside.

The companies made the deal in May.

The closing date is Monday and the store is scheduled to reopen on Tuesday as part of the Zeigler group.

Privately owned Zeigler Automotive Group was founded in 1975, and has 71 franchises and 26 locations throughout Illinois, Indiana and Michigan.

“We feel that this store has great potential. With everything we know about this business and with the community's support, we can really make this a successful store,” Aaron Zeigler, the group’s president, said in a news release.

McCarthy Ford’s current staff will be retained, Zeigler said. However, Val Kholodovsky will come in as general manager. announces 65 open jobs at North Miami location under construction

DORAL, Fla. - has confirmed plans to open a new North Miami location this summer — the company’s third pre-owned car dealership.

Plans for the new store come just months after the company announced the opening of its Broward location in February.

HGreg now has a total of four locations across Florida: its three used-car dealerships, along with the HGreg LUX boutique location for luxury vehicles, in Pompano Beach.

There are a total of 65 both full and part-time jobs positions available at the new location, and HGreg is currently accepting applications for sales, customer service, automotive, finance and multiple other positions, according to the company.

“ is much more than a car dealership group,” HGreg chief operating officer Fade Bouras said in a news release. “We’re a closely-knit family of professionals who are simplifying the car buying experience and ensuring a seamless customer experience.

“We’ve built a business that can tailor to traditional car purchasers as well as to those who prefer to shop mainly online. We are looking for people who have a passion for growth, technology and want to share in our vision for change,” Bouras explained.

Located at 8101 N.W. 7 Avenue in Miami, the new dealership can store up to 600 vehicles, according to HGreg.

LHM 2-day golf tourney raises $400K for women, kids charities

SANDY, Utah - 

Once again, Larry H. Miller Dealerships hosted group employees, vendors and business partners on the golf course to support its charitable arm Larry H. Miller Charities on Tuesday.

Not only did 54 foursomes come out to compete, this year’s 2-day LHM Golf Classic tournament raised $400,000 for the dealership group’s charity program.

Following an opening dinner and silent auction held at Salt Lake City’s Tuscany restaurant on Monday evening, LHM invited tournament participants to go head to head at the Hidden Valley Country Club in Sandy, Utah.

“The proceeds from the Larry H. Miller Golf Classic make a monumental difference in allowing us to give back in the communities where we do business,” group executive vice president of corporate affairs and Miller family philanthropy Jay Francis said in a news release. “This fundraiser is about one-third of the giving we will do this year and will allow us to make a real difference in our communities.”

The LHM Charities organization particularly aims to gift funds to groups and programs that support health and education initiatives for women and children in need, LHM explained.

Last year, 90-plus nonprofit organizations located across seven different western states were able to benefit from the $350,000 raised during the 2017 tournament.

Over $1.5 million in funds have been raised since LHM held its inaugural golf tournament for charity in 2012, and LHM Charities has given more than $8 million in support of several nonprofit organizations, according to the dealership group.

Franchised dealers more optimistic on pre-owned

CARY, N.C.  - 

In its Dealer Sentiment Index for the second quarter, released Monday, Cox Automotive found that franchised dealers continue to be happy with their used-car sales, and they feel better about used than they do about new-car sales.

Meanwhile, independent dealers are feeling a bit of an inventory pinch, which has diminished some of their positive sentiment on used-car sales.

The overall sentiment index for used-car sales (franchised and independent dealers combined) was 55 (out of 100) in the second quarter, relatively steady with the reading of 56 in the first quarter, according to the report.

The sentiment index for used cars among franchised dealers registered a 72, up from 69 in Q1. Not only does this suggest that used sales continue to be a “bright spot,” for franchised dealers, but it also shows these stores are “more positive on used-vehicle sales in Q2 than they were in Q1 and more positive on used than new,” Cox Automotive said.

The index on pre-owned sentiment for independents dropped from 52 to 50, though, with inventory constraints probably driving some of that.

“In Q2, the used-vehicle inventory sentiment for independents dropped to 45, down from 58 in Q1. Likewise, ‘Limited Inventory’ moved up to number two from number four last quarter as a top factor holding back business for independents,” Cox Automotive said.

The company cited an anonymous independent dealer in the survey saying: “(The market) is weak for dealers like me that sell late-model, low-mileage pre-owned vehicles because the new dealers in my area have substantially increased their used-vehicle inventory. They are better equipped to obtain financing for their customers than I am.”

Used-car sales slow some, remain strong in early 2018

There were considerably fewer used-car registrations in the first quarter than in the same period of either 2017 or 2016, according to data from Experian Automotive, but the retail market for pre-owned vehicles still appeared to be robust in the opening months of 2018.

In the May 2018 Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index released earlier this month, Cox Automotive estimated that there was a 1-percent year-over-year dip in retail used-car sales for May; however, it pinpointed the annualized rate to be 1 percent stronger.

Cox calculated the used-car SAAR at approximately 39.7 million for the month — the same as April — which was the strongest rate to date in 2018.

In an  Industry Update that was released May 21, Cox Automotive said April had approximately 2-percent fewer used-car sales than the same month a year earlier.

But that was due largely to last month having two fewer selling days than April 2017, the report stated.

In the first four months of 2018, year-to-date certified pre-owned car sales had climbed 2 percent, even though there was a 5.7-percent year-over-year decline in April’s sales, according to Cox Automotive. And, again, the 39.7 million SAAR in April — a rate that repeated in May — was the year’s strongest.

Meanwhile, Edmunds released a forecast in late May calling for 3.4 million used-car sales that month, which would have  been down from 3.5 million in April. However, the pre-owned SAAR for the month (39.3 million) was likely to pace ahead of April’s (39.2 million), according to Edmunds.

According to the Experian Automotive Quarterly Briefing outlining market-share and vehicle registration trends from Q1, there were 10.7 million used-car registrations during the opening quarter of 2018.

That’s down from 11.4 million in Q1 2017 and 11.1 million in Q1 2016.

But it beats the 10.5 million in the first quarter of 2015 and the 10.2 million in the same period of 2014.


AutoNation makes $250K donation to Marjory Stoneman Douglas Victims’ Fund


One of the largest public dealer groups is trying to help Floridians heal after a tragic school shooting back in February

On Monday, AutoNation announced that the company is making a $250,000 donation, through the Broward Education Foundation, to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Victims' Fund.

AutoNation associates across the country responded to a request from Mike Jackson, the company's chairman, chief executive officer and president, to support the South Florida high school.  Jackson also serves on the steering committee overseeing the allocation of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Victims' Fund.

Contributions by associates were matched by the company.

 “I was deeply touched by the response of our associates from coast to coast to the horrific events of February 14.  Thirteen AutoNation locations, including our headquarters are in Broward County,” Jackson said.

“Parkland is home to many of our associates and their children, who attend MSD.  The outpouring of support from our associates from all over the country, shows this tragedy has hit home for all of us,” he continued.

In solidarity with the victims and their families, AutoNation has partnered with Rick Case Automotive Group, to garner additional support for the MSD Victim’s fund from fellow members of the Florida Automotive Dealers Association.

Rita Case, Rick Case Automotive Group’s chief operating officer said, “Mike Jackson and I may be competitors in business, but right now we've put our business concerns aside and have united to help our devastated community heal from this tragedy.”

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Victims' Fund has collected more than $8 million and will continue to receive donations through June 30.

Ken Garff, Rairdon acquire Ford, Honda dealerships out west


Ken Garff Automotive Group now owns Utah’s former Henry Day Ford dealership, and further west Rairdon Automotive Group recently acquired a Honda store in Marysville, Wash., from the O'Brien Auto Group.

Ken Garff Automotive announced Monday that the Day family is departing from the automotive business after 84-plus years.

“We wholeheartedly welcome the Henry Day dealership, its employees and customers into the Ken Garff family,” Garff Enterprises chief executive officer John Garff said in a news release. “We know each other well, and our businesses complement each other perfectly.”

According to Garff, there aren’t any arrangements to make staffing cuts at the newly acquired store. “We have no plans for a reduction in force,” he explained. “Instead, we see growth opportunities as we combine strengths and services of both companies to benefit our customers.”

In addition to changing the former Henry Day Ford dealership’s name to Ken Garff West Valley Ford, the store will supply costumers with increased vehicle options, as well as offer GarffCare and its AdvantageCare pre-paid vehicle maintenance package.

“We are excited to join teams and continue to bring excellent service to our customers,” said Ken Garff West Valley Ford general manager Winston Bennion. “The West Valley community is wonderful, and we will continue to deliver the excellent service they have received from Henry Day's team.

“Our teams are all still in place, so customers can continue receiving the superior service they've always expected,” said Bennion.

Meanwhile, the Washington State dealership that Rairdon Automotive purchased from O'Brien Auto at the end of May is the group’s 11th location.

Now named Rairdon's Honda of Marysville, the newly acquired store is also the group’s third Honda dealership, joining Rairdon Automotive’s Honda of Burien and Honda of Sumner.

“We founded our company 25 years ago in the Smokey Point/Marysville market,” said Greg Rairdon, founder and CEO of Rairdon Automotive Group. “It’s a great opportunity for us to add our third Honda dealership where we got our start.”

Haig Partners facilitates store acquisitions by Asbury and Jim Ellis


Vehicles aren’t the only industry merchandise that recently rolled over the curb in the Atlanta market.

Haig Partners represented Ken Page and Scott Smith, principals of Automotive Associates of Atlanta (AAA), in the sale of two of their six Atlanta dealerships to Asbury Automotive Group and Jim Ellis Automotive Group. 

Asbury has acquired Toyota of Union City, and Jim Ellis Automotive has acquired Cobb County Kia.

“We are excited to bring Toyota of Union City into our Nalley platform in metro Atlanta,” Asbury chief executive officer David Hult said. “We will be able to take advantage of Nalley’s strong market presence, its leadership and great people in the stores that really generate great returns.

And we have a high-performing store in Nalley Honda just across the street,” Hult added.

Smith explained why he made this move.

“We have been very proud to represent Kia and Toyota in the Kennesaw and Union City communities,” Smith said. “These transactions have allowed me to refinance and fund my acquisition of the remaining Atlanta locations from my long-time partner and good friend Kenny (Page).”

Page Automotive Group and Automotive Associates of Atlanta will maintain ownership of dealerships in Florida, Maryland and Georgia.

“Haig Partners was able show us the value of approaching multiple targeted buyers to generate the value required to make this dream come true,” Page said. “Haig Partners found us great partners that will provide our employees with new opportunities and will represent the local markets well.

“Both Scott and I believe the team at Haig Partners was highly instrumental in managing the negotiation process and bringing the transactions to a conclusion. I am very happy for Scott in his new endeavor and look back on our years as partners with great fondness.” 

Nate Klebacha and Kevin Nill of Haig Partners were the financial advisers to Page abd Smith.  Stephen Dietrich of Holland and Knight served as legal counsel for the Cobb County Kia transaction, and Robert Bass of Bass Sox Mercer served as legal counsel for the Toyota of Union City transaction.

“Scott and Kenny asked us to help simplify their Atlanta operations, and we presented them with multiple solutions. Ultimately their choice to sell the Toyota and Kia locations was based upon what was best for their employees and the markets they served.  We would like to congratulate Jim Ellis and Asbury for acquiring dealerships in the robust Atlanta market,” Klebacha said.

Nill added, “Unlike many situations where a buyer acquires all of the dealerships, this opportunity made more sense to identify and execute transactions with separate buyers.  While adding complexity, it generated the funds necessary for Scott to acquire the group’s Atlanta Nissan dealerships.”

The team at Haig Partners has been involved in the purchase or sale of 14 Atlanta area dealerships and more than 280 dealerships nationwide.

Asbury now has 81 stores representing 29 brands in nine states.

Jim Ellis Automotive Group is an Atlanta-based dealership group with 14 stores representing 13 different franchises.

NY dealer group partners with Mobiliti to serve vacationers


A New York dealer group is looking to gain customers without waiting for “ups” to arrive at the showroom or store websites.

As local residents plan for summer travel, a new transportation option is available through Mobiliti, the first multi-dealer, multi-brand, national vehicle subscription service. New Yorkers who need vehicles for summer stays in The Hamptons, Jersey Shore or other vacation destinations, can subscribe to a vehicle to drive anywhere from 30 days to several months.

Beginning in June, Mobiliti is partnering with Island Auto Group to offer consumers a range of vehicles for one monthly fee that includes insurance, maintenance, warranty coverage and roadside assistance.

“A vehicle subscription service is for people who want a car but aren’t ready for ownership,” said Chance Richie, Mobiliti chief executive and co-founder.  “It’s similar to a lease, but without the things consumers dislike most about leasing including long-term contracts and upfront costs, with the added benefits of bundled insurance, maintenance and roadside assistance.”

Using the Mobiliti app, available now on the App Store and Google Play, customers will be able to view available inventory at Island Auto Group after launch and select the vehicles to fit their needs and budget. Each vehicle is uniquely priced based on make, model and mileage options. There is no cost to become a Mobiliti member, but approval requires a minimum age requirement, good driving record, credit card and valid U.S. driver’s license.

“Knowing a lot of New Yorkers need a vehicle just for the summer, we are launching the Mobiliti subscription service with Island Auto Group in two phases,” Richie said.

“We’re offering limited vehicles this summer and will ramp up and increase our inventory in early fall to include a wider variety of makes and models,” Richie went on to say.

As new-vehicle sales plateau and the inventory of used vehicles increases this year, Mobiliti insisted that it can help dealers generate new business by providing customers with an alternative to leasing or buying, utilizing existing dealer inventory for a premium subscription service that can lead to additional sales.

“Mobiliti is helping to create another revenue stream and drive new customers to the showroom and service bays,” said Josh Aaronson, co-owner of Island Automotive.

“The Mobiliti platform also allows us to easily bundle mobile technology and a comprehensive insurance product with our inventory to offer a compelling subscription product to our customers” added Marcello Sciarrino, co-owner of Island Auto Group.

Mobiliti is working with Ally Financial to provide fleet financing credit facilities to qualified dealer partners. More details about that relationship is contained in a previous Auto Remarketing report, available here.

Sonic pushing EchoPark since OEM demands are ‘out of control’


A pair of top Sonic Automotive executives reiterated the potential of its chain of dedicated pre-owned stores — EchoPark — not just because of the project’s capability of retailing used vehicles for a strong margin and building long-standing customer bonds.

Furthermore, the top Sonic brass is pushing resources into EchoPark because requirements from automakers about how franchised dealerships need to look and operate are “out of control.”

Sonic chief executive officer and president Scott Smith and executive vice president of operations Jeff Dyke discussed the topic during Sonic’s latest quarterly conference call when they also highlighted the records the dealer group posted during the first quarter. Investment analysts wondered if Sonic would be making franchised store acquisitions at a pace some of the other publicly traded groups have.

“I would say that 90 percent of our focus is on EchoPark,” Smith said. “I don’t want to say that we’re completely out of the market because I think, if there were opportunities in markets where we currently exist, that we would be interested in looking at those opportunities.

“But our primary focus right now is growing EchoPark as quickly as possible,” he continued. “(Executive vice president and chief financial officer Heath Byrd) and I got out on the road several years ago and said that we thought that there would be an inflection point. We feel like we’re entering that phase.”

Sonic already operates EchoPark rooftops in Colorado and Texas with plans to move into places such as the Carolinas.

“We’re seeing a lot of good positive traction in our EchoPark model and the pricing models that we’ve got installed now. And we think that at some point in time, in the not-too-distant future, that EchoPark will be substantially larger than our franchise business,” Smith said.

“There’s no barriers to entry for us. We’ve got the technology, the people, the processes, and we feel that we’ve cracked the code in how to make it predictable, repeatable and sustainable. Now it’s just a matter of building them in the markets and getting them up and running,” he went on to say.

Then Dyke quickly chimed in with his assessment of having additional franchised operations versus growing the EchoPark footprint.

“The only other thing I would add is from a franchise perspective, what dictates buying new-car dealerships, is the amount of money that you have to invest in facilities per our manufacturers’ requirements. And that has gotten, from our perspective, out of control,” Dyke said.

“And so while we want to bring our technologies and processes and the great things from the different brands that are out there, we’re just not going to make absurd and obscene investments in facilities,” Dyke continued.

“And so that will slow us down in terms of exactly what franchises we might buy and when we may buy them. It’s just got to be a reasonable return, and we’re managing that to a T,” he went on to say.

Smith cheered the points Dyke made to Wall Street observers with regard to what the OEM expectations are with regard to franchised dealerships.

“When we evaluate and weigh our investment opportunities, the new-car model, in my mind, as the CEO of this company, the new car model is completely broken right now because of the expectations of what these manufacturers have out there in the cost of this facilities. It doesn’t pencil. The model doesn’t work and something’s got to budge,” Smith said.

“And right now that’s, in my opinion, devaluing some of these franchises. And certainly, until the manufacturers lower their expectations, I think M&A’s going to slow down,” he added.