Group 1 eyes more dealerships


Group 1 Automotive is looking for new-car dealership “opportunities” in the United States, United Kingdom and Brazil markets, the company said during its recent quarterly conference call.

And as far as the standalone used-car store concept that has become increasingly popular, Group 1 chief executive officer Earl Hesterberg said his company has looked at the pre-owned stores “quite a bit.”

But he also noted that competitors Asbury Automotive Group, Lithia Motors and AutoNation, all tried and abandoned the concept — although AutoNation got back into the standalone used-car business in 2017.

Sonic Automotive, also publicly held, operates standalone used-car stores under its EchoPark brand.

“So, we see that expansion back into that concept,” Hesterberg said, during Group 1’s Feb. 8 conference call.

“We’re certainly studying it to see who’s successful. Thus far, it seems like the only real success has been with those who want to be the bank also, which is the interesting concept and not one we’ve considered.”

He said the company is also looking at and discussing with its board mobility trends such as ride-sharing and fleet servicing. “We have interest,” Hesterberg said. “We don’t know exactly how to make reasonable investments for our shareholders into some of those emerging trends.”

Hesterberg touted the company’s acquisition of a Land Rover dealership in the U.K. and Audi and Subaru dealerships in El Paso, Texas, in January.

“These three franchises are expected to generate approximately $100 million in annual revenues,” he said. “We expect to continue our strategy of disciplined growth through acquisitions in all three of our markets over the course of 2018.”

Group 1 has 175 dealerships: 117 are located in the U.S. and generate 75 percent of the company’s new-vehicle sales; 42 are located in the U.K., generating 20 percent of new-vehicle sales and 16 are located in Brazil, generating 5 percent of new-vehicle sales.

Tax laws changes helped

Looking at the fourth quarter, Group 1 said it benefited from changes in the U.S. federal tax law that cut corporate taxes.

Group 1’s net income in its fourth quarter that ended Dec. 31 included an “approximate $73 million” benefit from changes in the U.S. federal tax law, the company reported. In the fourth quarter that ended Dec. 31, Group 1’s overall adjusted net income, excluding the tax benefit, increased 18.8 percent to $44.3 million on revenues that increased 9.2 percent to $2.9 billion.

Overall new-vehicle unit sales in the quarter rose 6.4 percent to 44,713, and used-vehicle unit sales were up 5.4 percent to 32,015.

The company’s annual overall adjusted net income excluding the tax benefit was almost flat, dipping 0.1 percent to $163.5 million on revenues that grew 2.2 percent to $11.1 billion. Overall new-vehicle unit sales for the year were almost flat, up 0.1 percent to 172,200; used-vehicle unit sales were up 0.6 percent to 129,933.

For all of 2017, Group 1’s new-vehicle retail sales in the U.S. dropped 2.6 percent to 127,141 units, and its used-vehicle retail sales were down 4.3 percent to 101,170 units.

Common — and expensive — 2016 vehicle components targeted by thieves


The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) looked at the cost of replacement parts for the Top 10 stolen vehicles from the 2016 model year and uncovered how lucrative illegal operations can be that chop up these units — and potentially take away business from your dealership’s service drive.

NICB insisted that expensive parts will continue to drive thefts as criminals steal cars and trucks to strip them and sell the parts on the black market.

Thefts of vehicles in the U.S. rose again last year by more than 4 percent, according to preliminary 2017 crime data from the FBI. Officials indicated many of the vehicles that are recovered are missing wheels and rims or other key parts, while ones that are never recovered end up in chop shops where they are quickly dismantled and sold piece by piece.

The NICB pulled average OEM part prices from a database of more than 24 million vehicle damage appraisals generated for insurance claims from 2016 and 2017. Parts such as bumpers, doors, fenders, hoods and headlights were on the list. Major components like the engine and transmission were not included.

Here are three examples of what bureau officials found:

—The 2016 Toyota Camry, the most stolen 2016 model in their latest “Hot Wheels” report, had 15 commonly replaced components valued at nearly $11,000. That’s not including labor.

—The 2016 Nissan Altima had 14 standard components worth more than $14,000, including a single headlamp assembly valued at more than $1,000.

—And the 2016 GMC Sierra pickup truck included a $1,100 headlamp and a rear bumper worth more than $1,100. The 20 standard components rang in at more than $21,000.

“For the professional theft ring, stealing and stripping vehicles for parts has always been a lucrative business,” NICB senior vice president and chief operating officer Jim Schweitzer said. “On today’s cars and trucks, the parts are often worth more than the intact vehicle and may be easier to move and sell. That’s why we see so many thefts of key items like wheels and tires and tailgates...there’s always a market for them.

“We support law enforcement efforts, especially the auto theft task forces that focus on these kinds of theft rings,” Schweitzer continued. “Shutting down a theft ring and a chop shop can have a major impact on reducing thefts in a community.”

The NCIB shared more details in an infographic available here as well as a video that can be seen here or through the window at the top of this page. opens 3rd Florida dealership

DORAL, Fla. - announced Wednesday that it has opened Broward, its third location in Florida that includes a 28,515-square-foot building, along with more than 400 cars on a four-acre lot.

The company said it will employ up to around 80 full- and part-time employees at the new location. belongs to the HGregoire network of new- and used-car dealerships. 

“We’re delighted to officially bring the brand and service offering to Broward County,” company co-president John Hairabedian said in a news release. “We’ve enjoyed serving residents of the county through our HGreg Lux location in Pompano Beach and dealership and warehouse in Doral. With this newest dealership, we’re convinced we can help even more people in the region find the car of their dreams at an affordable price and in the most convenient manner.”

The company boasts that more than 95 percent of its retail customers’ visit its website before stepping foot into a dealership, which allows for a more seamless car buying experience.

HGreg’s warehouse is located near the Doral dealership, and currently houses more than 1,500 pre-owned vehicles, according to the company. said the location is undisclosed to the public but the company does organize private visits to the location on request.

The new Broward dealership is located at 3801 South State Road 7 in West Park, Fla.

Study: Lincoln, BMW brands see largest share-of-visit increase year-over-year

CARY, N.C. - 

While numbers remained flat throughout the year for most brands, among non-luxury dealers, both domestic and imported, Lincoln saw the largest share-of-visit increase year-over-year (plus 2.25 percent).

This is according to The Year in Location: 2017, Auto Report from PlaceIQ results released Tuesday.

Luxury brand BMW (plus 3.9 percent) saw the largest share-of-visit increase year-over-year, followed by Acura (plus 3.8 percent) and Volvo (plus 3.7 percent).

When it comes to the highest share-of-visits, among non-luxury dealers, top performers include domestic brands Chevrolet, Ford, Dodge and Chrysler, which saw visitation share at 16, 13.9, 7.9 and 7.8 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, Toyota, Honda, Lincoln and Nissan showed the highest efficiency among the group, according to PlaceIQ data.

PlaceIQ examined share-of-visit data to determine which brands received the highest portion of visits overall as well as those who are most efficient when it comes to foot traffic.

While share-of-visit data just covers each brand’s overall foot traffic performance, a look at average efficiency digs deeper to reveal the highest number of visitors-per-location.

Across domestics, both luxury and non-luxury, Lincoln and Cadillac hold the smallest visit share, 5.7 percent and 5.5 percent, respectively compared to Chevrolet, Ford, Dodge and Chrysler with visit share totaling 21.7, 18.6, 10.7 and 10.6 percent.

Foreign non-luxury brands showing the highest share-of-visits is Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Kia.

With an average 39 percent more visitors-per-location non-luxury car dealerships were found to be more efficient than luxury dealerships.

Interestingly, the study also found that car-shoppers are willing to travel an average four miles more to visit a luxury dealership.

Additionally, the study also found that all dealerships see an average visitation lift of 3.7 percent during the last week of the month.

According to PlaceIQ, the company conducted its analysis using its proprietary data made up of 190MM unique, anonymous devices across the U.S.

Slight franchise dealer count increase; throughput down from 2016


Across the United States, the number of operating automotive dealerships remained steady in 2017.

That's according to the latest Automotive Franchise Activity Report from Urban Science released Tuesday.

There were a total of 18,213 dealerships rooftops as of Jan. 1 — a 0.2-percent increase from a total of 18,170 on Jan. 1, 2017, according to the report.

The sales throughput for last year was 947 per dealership, which is down 18 units from 2016 levels, said Urban Science's global director of data Mitchell Phillips in a news release.

“With the stable dealership count trend as we have seen for the past several years and an industry forecast that is slightly declining from 2017, we expect the sales throughput to decline in 2018,” Phillips explained.

“Over the last seven years, the dealership network has set a new normal pattern of stability. The data shows that 97 percent of local markets had virtually no net change (+/- 1 dealership),” he said.

The number of dealerships increased most significantly in Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Missouri and New York, according to Phillips.

Below is a list of the top six states to add the most dealerships since last year, along with the number of new dealerships in each state:

  • Texas, 15 dealerships
  • Florida, 11 dealerships
  • Pennsylvania, 10 dealerships
  • Mississippi, five dealerships
  • Missouri, five dealerships
  • New York, five dealerships

In addition to automotive manufacturers Urban Science' data sources also include feeds from phone and field verification.

Urban Science has been collecting information for its Automotive Franchise Activity Report since 1990.

DC dealers help to host Senate hearings during auto show


Dealers and lawmakers recently found another way to gather in the shadow of Capitol Hill.

Events DC, the official convention and sports authority for the District of Columbia and the Washington Area New Automobile Dealers Association (WANADA) welcomed the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation along with the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources during the 2018 Washington Auto Show at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

On Jan. 24, the committee hearings met inside the convention center to discuss automotive innovation and energy technologies, and it was the first field hearing held within the District of Columbia.

“Washington, D.C. has been actively engaged in exploring transportation, automotive and energy technology, such as autonomous vehicles for instance, as a critical part of planning for future population growth and accommodating a record number of visitors to our city,” said deputy mayor of planning and economic Brian Kenner.

“Field hearings, like this — and its outcomes — are vital to the future growth of environmental innovation and planning within the D.C. region’s auto industry,” Kenner continued.

During the Washington Auto Show, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, led by South Dakota Sen. John Thune, discussed the development of autonomous technologies in the automobile industry.

The hearing, titled “Driving Automotive Innovation and Federal Policies,” examined the need to develop a regulatory framework that would support the research and development of new innovations for the driverless vehicle industry.

Officials believe vehicles are paving the way for innovation as self-driving cars are confronting industry needs for enhanced safety, reliability, advanced technology and additional accessibility opportunities.

“With Washington, D.C. thriving as the ‘Capital of Inclusive Innovation,’ Events DC remains focused on elevating the client and attendee experience through collaborative efforts, like this, on future-forward initiatives that benefit the District of Columbia and its growing technology sector,” said Greg O’Dell, president and chief operating officer of Events DC. 

“The Walter E. Washington Convention Center has been the long-standing home for the Washington Auto Show, and it continues to be an honor to work in partnership with WANADA to host such revolutionary hearings that are defining the evolution of the automotive industry and the future of the Washington Auto Show,” O’Dell continued.

The second hearing on Jan. 25, “The Road to Tomorrow: Energy Innovation in Automotive Technologies,” was held by the United States Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and led by Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. It focused on the current state of integrating energy and natural resources into the automotive landscape through reducing the carbon footprint of vehicles and increasing the efficiency through growing technologies.

“As WANADA celebrates 101 years supporting the auto industry in the Washington region, it was an honor to work with the United States Senate and the Walter E. Washington Convention Center to bring the first field hearings to the District of Columbia,” said John O’Donnell, president and chief executive officer of the Washington Area New Automobile Dealers Association.

“The growing auto industry continues to deliver new and exciting advancements to consumers and with these hearings the United States is able to remain a global leader for automotive technology of tomorrow,” O’Donnell went on to say.

Each year the Washington Auto Show fills all five exhibit halls, plus the ballroom within Convention Center. The show highlights all aspects of the automobile industry from luxury and exotic cars, to interactive driving experiences, car-themed paraphernalia, the Mobility Talks International government forum to the Art-of-Motion exhibit featuring artist-decorated vehicles and a kid zone with entertainment for guests of all ages.

Used-car momentum only beginning for AutoNation


AutoNation opened three standalone used-car stores in 2017, rolled out its fourth in January and has plans to open its fifth AutoNation USA location — this time in Las Vegas — by the end of this quarter.

What’s more, the retailer is making additions on the wholesale side of pre-owned, too, with plans to open an AutoNation Auto Auction in Atlanta by the end of the quarter, the fourth auction facility for the dealership group.

This used-car momentum discussed by AutoNation management during its latest earnings call comes on the heels of what was a strong fourth quarter in pre-owned.

Total used-vehicle retail revenue was up 2.4 percent in the fourth quarter at $1.14 billion, with retail used gross profits up 7.7 percent at $75.2 million. AutoNation retailed 55,944 used cars during the quarter, up 1.3 percent from Q4 of 2016.

Wholesale revenue, however, was down 34.4 percent at $69.7 million, but gross profits there climbed to $2.8 million, up from a loss of $4.4 million a year earlier. 

During the Q&A portion of the call with analysts, AutoNation chief executive Mike Jackson was asked about AutoNation’s used-to-new retail sales ratio – estimated by the questioner to have softened year-over-year to 0.6-to-1— and whether the retailer could pivot to used to counterbalance what could be slower new-car sales for the industry.

“In pre-owned, you know, I’ll take a quarter like this the rest of my career, but I don’t think I’m going to get it,” Jackson said. “We had an increase in gross profit all-in in our pre-owned business, same-store sales, of 16 percent. Now every quarter is going to be a little different where you find the optimal line between margin and volume. Also we were much more effective in … our wholesale operations.

“Very good operational execution, combined with finding the optimal line between volume and profits, led to an outstanding result. I think over time, you’ll see our pre-owned business is growing faster than our new business, but in this particular quarter it went the other way, but the results all in are outstanding and I wouldn’t change a thing,” he said.

One thing that is changing, both at AutoNation and industrywide, are the growing presence of standalone pre-owned outlets.

Chief financial officer Cheryl Miller said it’s still too early to gauge the success of AutoNation USA, quite yet.

“We’re really talking about four or five stores at this point. (It’s) challenging to compare the early results, because two of those stores were in Texas. And so when you look at the impact of the hurricanes in Corpus and Houston, certainly you can’t extrapolate those trends from the early results. But stay tuned there,” Miller said. “But I’d say from a materiality standpoint, currently the AN USA stores are not material to the overall volume.” 

However, one area of the AutoNation USA business that is already starting to show some positive results is the customer-pay service initiative.

Scott Arnold, who is AutoNation’s executive vice president of customer care and brand extensions, said: “We are starting to see customer-pay traffic come into the store. We’re seeing that coming off of the used cars that are being sold. 

“We offer a maintenance program at no cost to the consumer when they purchase a vehicle. And so that customer is now starting to come back in to the earlier USA stores and showing up as a customer-pay customer,” he said. “So, yes, we are starting to see the traffic build. It will build slowly at first, but consistently and continue to move up.”


Penske to expand used-car superstore footprint in U.S. under CarSense brand


Penske Automotive Group will expand its standalone, used-vehicle supercenter footprint with three new used-car stores in the U.S., said chief executive Roger Penske.

The company will open the greenfield sites under its U.S. brand, CarSense, which operates five used-car supercenter locations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The first new location will be in Phoenix and is to open in about six months, followed by locations in the New Jersey and Pennsylvania areas. All three locations will be up and running within “12 to 18 months,” Penske said.

Penske Automotive expects its standalone used-vehicle superstore operations, which also includes locations in the U.K., to sell approximately 70,000 used cars and trucks and generate over $1 billion this year.

“We believe these used-vehicle dealerships further diversify PAG’s business and provide an opportunity to capitalize on the highly fragmented used-vehicle marketplace,” Penske said during the company’s conference call on Thursday outlining its quarterly and annual financial results.

“In the fourth quarter, these businesses retailed 9,500 units, generated $176 million in revenue and $29 million in gross profit.”

Penske Automotive acquired CarSense in January 2017. It also purchased CarShop, which operates five used-car locations in U.K., in 2017.  In January, it closed the deal on The Car People, which operates four used-car locations, also in the U.K.

Penske Automotive’s adjusted income from continuing operations in its fourth quarter that ended Dec. 31 included a $243.4 million benefit from changes in the U.S. federal tax law.

Excluding the tax benefit, Penske Automotive’s income in the quarter rose 11.9 percent to $86.6 million and was up 9.2 percent to $370.1 million for the year.

Penske Automotive’s revenue in the quarter increased 10.4 percent to $5.4 billion and its revenue for the 12-month period ending Dec. 31 increased 6.3 percent to $21.4 billion.

Penske Automotive operates automotive and commercial truck dealerships principally in the U.S., Canada and Western Europe.

The Appraisal Lane steps into Texas market

AUSTIN, Texas  - 

The Appraisal Lane announced Thursday that it has expanded into Texas to meet increased dealer demand.

Dealers in the Lone Star State can join the company’s buyer network encompassing 26 states that enables dealers to buy in-demand inventory virtually — both inside and outside of their market area.

This expansion follows the company's announcement in December that in just a little over two years, it surpassed $100 million in used-car transactions for both live trades and aged units.

Last year, The Appraisal Lane processed more than 60,000 vehicles for cash offers in its community, according to the company.

“We continue our strategic and methodical expansion westward to meet ever-increasing dealer demand for our community and the benefits it brings,” The Appraisal Lane co-founder and president Andrew Iorgulescu said in a news release. “The dealers in our community are seeing increased incremental sales while mitigating exposure to wholesale loss. 

“Additionally, with The Appraisal Lane, transparency and a responsive process provide a better customer experience.  We're pleased to bring this platform to dealers in the competitive Texas automotive marketplace."

The Appraisal Lane is available across the entire Eastern Seaboard, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Texas.

Carvoy introduces digital marketplace platform for dealers


Carvoy announced Thursday the launch of Carvoy Ignite, an end-to-end e-commerce SaaS platform designed to convert auto dealers’ websites into an online marketplace.

The digital platform is available to dealerships nationwide and easily integrates with dealers’ pre-existing systems, the company said.

The automotive-tech startup, Carvoy, the parent company of Carvoy Ignite, provides a transparent online solution to new-car leasing and user-dealer connectivity. Its technology allows users to start and finish the entire leasing process from their desktop.

Carvoy has partnered with over 300 dealerships on the East Coast, according to the company.

The company said it launched Carvoy Ignite to continue creating synergies for dealerships.

Carvoy Ignite can increase the amount of dealerships’ sales transactions because it gives consumers access to inventory after hours and cuts down on the time it takes to get a lease done, according to Carvoy.

In addition to allowing dealerships to create customizable online showrooms, Carvoy Ignite provides dealers with real-time analytics of all transactions to both access granular buyer behavior and guide pricing via its digital dashboard.

“For most, the car buying experience is associated with time-consuming negotiations and reviewing extensive paperwork. Carvoy Ignite gives consumers an experience they can be excited about while simultaneously increasing profits for dealers,” Carvoy Ignite chief executive officer and co-founder Daniel Yuabov said in a news release. “Carvoy Ignite was born out of a deep understanding of the issues that exist within the automotive industry.

“Supplying dealerships with the tools they need to be able to address the customer demand for a more simplified, efficient and user-friendly car buying process,” Yuabov continued.

The Carvoy Ignite dashboard includes trackable inventory, automated desking, finance and insurance (F&I) package options, trade-in options and customer credit approval.

During transactions, the F&I department will receive digitized deals that Carvoy Ignite pushes directly into their financing software with pre-selected add-ons.

Whether on the showroom floor or in the F&I office, Carvoy Ignite also provides dealerships access to text-enabled customer follow-ups and links for in-store personnel.

Carvoy said the technology allows salespeople to operate more effectively because they can manage all transactions transparently from a mobile device.

“In today’s world, every industry is shifting their inventory to online marketplaces and I always worried it wouldn’t be a fit,” Smithtown Toyota director of business development Steve Gaynor explained in the news release. “After learning about Carvoy Ignite, I realized this will not only provide my customers with the online experience they are looking for when leasing a car, but it will help my colleagues when they are providing consumers with the exact car that they want.”

Updated to clarify details of Carvoy platform.