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M&A roundup: dealerships change hands in Virginia, California, Ohio and more

The most recent Q3 2023 Haig Report from buy/sell firm Haig Partners, highlights the robust demand for car dealerships. According to the report, 2023 is on track to become the third busiest year for dealership acquisitions, only behind 2021 and 2022, with approximately 385 dealerships expected to have been sold by the end of the third quarter.

Yet, the average blue sky values of publicly owned dealerships have decreased by 12% since the end of 2022, marking a decline of just over 1% each month. Though, this reduction in values isn’t consistent across all franchises and areas.

Despite this, quite a few dealerships have changed ownership already in Q4. Here is a selection of those transactions:

2 high-value dealerships sell in Charlottesville, Virginia

Jim Price Auto Group has sold Jim Price Hyundai and Price Kia to Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based Flow Automotive, which owns dealerships across North Carolina and Charlottesville.

Jim Price Auto Group was founded in 1968 by Henry James “Jim” Price in Charlottesville. In 2017, his daughter Sandra Price Amato became the dealer principal, continuing the family’s legacy as one of Charlottesville’s top dealer groups. In 2022, Jim Price Auto Group was named the #1 new car dealership group in Charlottesville for the second consecutive year.

“After 55 years of doing business in this incredible community, this was a big decision for our family and could only be made with confidence if we knew we were transitioning our dealerships in a way that would serve family, employees and community alike,” said Sandra Price Amato, Owner and Dealer Principal of Jim Price Auto Group.

Kia and Hyundai are among the top brands in the industry: in 2022, Kia and Hyundai gained the most market share of all import non-luxury franchises, increasing 15.5% and 14.6%, respectively.

Springhill Automotive Group adds 8th store to Southeast portfolio

Josh and Ashley Gunther of Team Gunther Kia & Volkswagen located in Daphne, AL, sold their store, in mid-October, to Tal Vickers of the Springhill Automotive Group in Mobile, AL.

Josh Gunther, Dealer Principal of Team Gunther Kia & Volkswagen, said, “As Ashley and I were evaluating our strategic options with Pete, it became clear that market conditions were very attractive. It was the right time for us to explore other opportunities. Ashley and I are extremely proud of the business and the reputation we built at Team Gunther Kia & Volkswagen. We have had the pleasure of meeting and working with so many great people over the years.”

Tal Vickers, Springhill Automotive Group’s President, said, “We’re very excited to welcome the talented team of Team Gunther Kia & Volkswagen to the Springhill family. This location adds to our growing business and is our eighth location in the Southeast and our first on the eastern shore in Daphne, AL.”

Mark Williams Auto Group scoops up Woody Sander Ford

Woody Sander Ford in Cincinnati, OH has been handed over to the Mark Williams Auto Group. The third-generation dealership was sold after its three owners, Matt Sander, Ed Crawford, and Mike Kaiser announced their retirement. The transaction closed on Friday, November 17, 2023. Mark Williams decided to utilize Cincinnati’s “Queen City” nickname to rename the dealership Queen City Ford.

After being in business for 61 years, the owners of Woody Sander Ford wanted a trusted company that would keep their loyal employees on staff. Mark Williams and his family-owned company were the right fit for Woody Sander Ford’s wishes.

Mark Williams Auto Group owns three additional dealerships, all located within a 50-mile radius of Cincinnati, Ohio; Beechmont Ford in Cincinnati and Mt. Orab Ford and Mt. Orab Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in Mt. Orab, Ohio.

“We are excited about the opportunity to grow our customer base on the westside of Cincinnati and look forward to welcoming all of the Woody Sander customers to Queen City Ford,” stated Mark Williams.

Haron Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo sells to California dealer

Fresno, California-based Haron Motor Sales has off-loaded Haron Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo, to Temecula, California-based Unstoppable Auto Group, owned by Garth Blumenthal. Unstoppable Auto now has nine new car dealerships across California.

Since 1945, three generations of the family have owned and operated the Haron dealership downtown. Founded by Charles Haron, Charles’ nickname of “Haron the Baron, the Sports Car King of the Valley,” quickly became famous in Fresno—as did his affinity for British performance cars.

What started as Triumphs and MGs eventually turned into Jaguars in 1981, then evolved into Land Rover and Volvo. A fixture of the Fresno community for 78 years, Haron Motor Sales is known for its excellence in sales and service and boasts high customer service and employee relations.

“The dealership is family. Working at the dealerships is something that we all grew up doing, and how we built our lives,” said Jim Haron, Co-Owner of Haron Motor Sales. “The decision to sell was a difficult one for us.”

The Haron family’s community reputation was built on their strong advocacy of Fresno, in particular Downtown Fresno. As the former Chairwoman of the Board of Directors for The Downtown Fresno Partnership, Co-Owner Hilary Haron directed the organization that revitalized downtown Fresno.

“After so many decades, and so many generations, we knew we were offering a highly valued dealership with a long legacy,” said Hilary Haron. “We wanted to find a buyer who would do well by our community and the legacy of our dealership.”

Hilary Haron has been a member of the California New Car Dealers Association’s board of directors (CNCDA) since January 2019, and a Director At-Large West on the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Board.

New Jersey-based Action Hyundai becomes Vineland Hyundai

On Tuesday, October 31, Action Hyundai, previously owned by Leonard Datello, was acquired by Greg Munoz and Sal Iannuzzi. The dealership will now be known as Vineland Hyundai.

Vineland Hyundai is the first Hyundai dealership owned by Munoz and Iannuzzi. It is the third dealership under their ownership and an important step in their plans for future growth.

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