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.