2021 dealership acquisitions reshaped the auto retail landscape

on May16
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Erin Kerrigan, managing director of Kerrigan Advisors, a sell-side firm in Incline Village, Nev., observed a significant uptick of transactions involving multiple dealerships in 2021.

Kerrigan Advisors’ 2021 annual Blue Sky Report said 126 such transactions occurred last year, up from 73 in 2020 and 60 in 2019. In all, Kerrigan counted 383 transactions in 2021, up 33 percent and smashing what her firm said was the previous high set in 2020.

“Many, many dealers now are interested in not just acquiring one dealership but making more aggressive moves and buying an entire group,” Kerrigan told Automotive News.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, Kerrigan said most buyers, outside of the publics and the largest privately held dealership groups, were hesitant “to do a major transaction.”

“Whereas today, we find that many private groups are seeking transformative acquisitions because they believe scale is the biggest determiner of their future success,” she said.

Public dealership groups acquired a combined 222 U.S. dealerships in 2021, according to Automotive News.

Gregg Ciocca, CEO of Ciocca Dealerships in Quakertown, Pa., says many dealers “think the timing is right” to exit.

Of all 2021 transactions tracked by Automotive News, 42, or 11 percent, involved one of the six major public groups or publicly traded LMP Automotive Holdings as buyers.

Haig used regulatory filings to estimate that the six major public groups spent nearly $9.1 billion combined on acquisitions last year, led by Asbury and Lithia.

Kerrigan Advisors estimated the six major publics spent a record $9.56 billion on acquisitions in 2021, significantly up from its $2.48 billion estimate for 2020 when only Lithia and Asbury made acquisitions.

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