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The Intersection 4-2-23

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This year’s annual dealership group ranking chock-full of change

It won’t take long for readers of Automotive News’ latest ranking of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S. to notice changes in the lineup.

Starting at the top, for the first time, is auto retail giant Lithia Motors Inc.

Lithia, once the smallest publicly traded dealership group before embarking on a multiyear dealership buying spree, passed longtime No. 1 AutoNation Inc. in new vehicles sold in 2022. The toppling of AutoNation, which had held the top spot since 1997, was expected as Lithia purchased dealerships at a rate far outpacing its rival.

It’s fitting that Lithia, which has helped drive the dealership buy-sell market to new heights with its acquisition strategy, is now No. 1 on a list that strongly reflects the impact of consolidation in auto retail.

After seeing megadeals completed in 2021, new buyers entered the market, including dealers who hadn’t previously explored growth through the acquisition space, said George Karolis, president of Presidio Group, an investment banking and advisory firm in Denver and Atlanta.

Some groups, many of which acquired multiple dealerships in 2022 and 2021, made big jumps. Take Shottenkirk Automotive Group Inc., up 43 spots to No. 56, or Ciocca Dealerships, up 32 spots to No. 51, for example.

Ben Keating, owner of Keating Auto Group, credited the seven dealerships he bought in 2021 for his group’s sales growth, describing three of those stores as high-volume Hyundai locations. Keating Auto Group climbed 13 spots to No. 15.

One newcomer to the list gave off an energized vibe when talking about the industry and his company’s ranking.

McGovern Automotive Group, a 6-year-old retailer, made its list debut at No. 65. CEO Matt McGovern said the dealership group will be ready to tackle whatever happens next in the industry.

Another newer and growing company, Empire Automotive Group, jumped 31 spots to land at No. 67 on the list.

“We still feel we have the ability to grow,” Empire CEO Michael Brown told Automotive News.

If you are a subscriber to our Data Center, feel free to review the full list and filter results.

— Jack Walsworth, Julie Walker and C.J. Moore      

In Monday’s Automotive News:

How far will a dealer go to sell cars? John Iacono and his family/partners at BRAM Auto Group have built a tremendously expensive, multiple-story monument to dealer innovation in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood on the west side of Manhattan. Lexus of Manhattan and Toyota of Manhattan share the fourth floor of a multiuse building with sweeping views of the Hudson River. But where does the inventory get stored in the tightly packed canyons of New York City? Automotive News looks at the imaginative approach involved in the project that took almost 10 years to come to fruition.

Kia’s new technological tour de force: Kia’s all-electric EV9, arriving in U.S. showrooms in the latter half of this year, hosts fast charging, long range and is bundled with so much technology that any hazy memory of the old bargain-basement brand image should finally be sent packing. The crossover comes with all the latest trappings of the EV era, including Level 3 autonomous driving and a plethora of over-the-air software updates through Kia’s online store. Automotive News looks at why Kia CEO Ho Sung Song calls the EV9 the brand’s new flagship.

Weekend headline

Hyundai, Kia rack up double-digit gains in March: Volume rose 27 percent to 75,404 last month at Hyundai, with retail deliveries increasing 15 percent to 68,312. Hyundai said sales to fleet customers represented 9.4 percent of March volume. U.S. sales advanced 20 percent to 71,294 at Kia, its fifth-straight month of a gain of 20 percent or more.

U.S. new-vehicle sales expected to grow in March, though momentum is slowing: U.S. light-vehicle sales got off to a strong start in the first quarter, but the new-vehicle market showed signs of losing momentum by March as rising interest rates and transaction prices are putting pressure on what buyers can afford.

Lucid is cutting 18% of work force amid slow sales: Lucid Motors is reducing its work force by about 18 percent as the EV startup seeks to cut costs amid steep losses and softening demand for its Air sedan after a year and a half of production. In a regulatory filing Tuesday, Lucid Group CEO Peter Rawlinson said the staff reduction was needed to cut noncritical spending.

Musk, experts urge pause on AI systems, citing ‘risks to society’: Tesla CEO Elon Musk and a group of artificial intelligence experts and industry executives are calling for a six-month pause in developing systems more powerful than OpenAI’s newly launched GPT-4, citing potential risks to society and humanity.

April 1, 2021: Veteran powertrain engineer Toshihiro Mibe becomes CEO of Honda Motor Co.

Source : AutoNews

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