SARASOTA, Fla. — CarBiz recently announced that it purchased Calcars, the fourth largest chain of buy-here, pay-here dealerships in the country. This transaction entails the company acquiring 26 stores.

Calcars' consolidated revenues for 2006 were more than $36 million, which would have increased CarBiz revenues by almost 10 times, explained Carl Ritter, chief executive officer.

"I cannot overstate what this means for CarBiz. We made an eight-year growth leap virtually overnight," Ritter said. "We had initiated an aggressive growth strategy in Florida with a goal of 15 stores by 2010, but when this opportunity presented itself, we moved quickly to complete a deal."

Before the acquisition, the CarBiz Auto Credit Division had established three BHPH dealerships in Florida, with all in the Tampa Bay region.

The acquisition expands the company's footprint into the Midwest, where the 26 stores in seven states are located. Officials said three of the stores will be closed.

The remaining 23 dealerships are located in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska, Ohio and Oklahoma.

Ritter said 117 employees in the Calcars network were offered employment with CarBiz after the acquisition. The company also plans to add 10 employees at its Sarasota headquarters.

"Industry sources estimate that the average sub-sector of the alternative market is more than 40 percent consolidated already," Ritter noted. "The single exception is the BHPH auto sales business where only 2 percent of the market is consolidated. Yet, this sub-sector is a significant component of the alternative financial services market."