Gilchrist Automotive in September 2022 bought a Toyota dealership in Lawton, Okla. Pictured left to right, according to Gilchrist Automotive, are: Tony Lanteri, sales manager; Jackie Williams, sales manager; Stephen Gilchrist, dealer principal; Justin Rogers, general manager/partner and Reese Gilchrist, partner.
Three dealership groups expanded their portfolios in second- and third-quarter transactions, while a Tennessee dealership group added a second store of the same import brand and shedded two Stellantis outlets.
Here’s a look at the deals involving import and domestic stores and dealerships in Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia, Missouri and South Carolina. One transaction involved a group ranked on Automotive News‘ list of the top 150 dealership groups.
Gilchrist Automotive on Sept. 26 acquired its first Oklahoma dealership by purchasing Toyota of Lawton as the group also returned to the Toyota brand after more than two decades.
The dealership, now named SouthWest Toyota of Lawton, also marks the Gilchrist group’s first dealership outside of Texas, said Stephen Gilchrist, the group’s co-owner and dealer operator. The seller was Orr Auto Group, Gilchrist said. Lawton is southwest of Oklahoma City.
Gilchrist said his group has looked at expanding to nearby states amid a lack of acquisition options in the Dallas-Fort Worth-area, where the group is based, and the high dealership prices in Texas, where its other dealerships are located.
The group’s expansion outside of northern Texas began this year after it bought two central Texas dealerships in Gatesville in February. Gilchrist Automotive also in June sold its Parkway Buick-GMC dealership in Sherman, Texas, north of Dallas, to Vanguard Automotive Group.
Justin Rogers, who previously managed that store, will be the Oklahoma dealership’s new general manager, Gilchrist said, adding most existing staff there were retained.
The group also had an interest in owning a Toyota store again, Gilchrist said. Gilchrist Automotive hasn’t owned a Toyota dealership since it sold its Weatherford, Texas, store in 1999, Gilchrist said.
Toyota Motor Corp. CEO Akio Toyoda’s skepticism of U.S. EV sales targets also encouraged Gilchrist Automotive to partner with the Toyota brand, he said. Gilchrist said he agrees with Toyoda’s opinion that hybrid vehicles may be the most realistic way to reduce carbon emissions in the near future.
Toyota’s continued investment in internal combustion engines is important, “especially when you’re in places like Texas and Oklahoma where we still drive a lot of trucks and big SUVs,” Gilchrist told Automotive News.
“We’re starting to see more interest in EVs, [but] it’s not like we can flip a switch tomorrow and everybody’s going to want to buy an EV,” Gilchrist added.
Gilchrist Automotive, of Hudson Oaks, Texas, ranks No. 112 on Automotive News‘ list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S., retailing 8,766 new vehicles in 2021.
Dealership buy-sell firm Hicks Management & Consulting Group Inc. in Arlington, Texas, represented both the buyer and seller in the transaction.
Chantz Scott buys Kia dealership, sells two Stellantis stores
The Chantz Scott Auto Group acquired its second Kia dealership, the former Grindstaff Kia in Johnson City, Tenn.
Chantz Scott Auto bought the dealership July 26 from Steve Grindstaff. It was renamed Kia of Johnson City.
“I wanted to buy this Kia store because this is where I started selling cars back in 2004,” Chantz Scott, CEO of his namesake auto group, told Automotive News in an email. “We already have an existing footprint with Chantz Scott Kia, located in Kingsport, Tenn.”
Scott said he also sold both of his Stellantis dealerships this year.
He said he sold Auto World of Big Stone Gap, a Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram store in Big Stone Gap, Va., which he acquired in 2016, to Gavin Harbolt on May 13. That store was renamed My Town Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram.
Harbolt, who has a used pickup truck and RV dealership in South Point, Ohio, said this is his first franchised dealership. He said he partnered on the purchase with Scott Reed and Dr. John Pappas, both from Lexington, Ky.
Harbolt told Automotive News that he is also under contract to buy a Chevrolet dealership in Tennessee and wants to acquire 10 new-car stores in five years.
Scott, an Automotive News 40 Under 40 award winner in 2017, was set to sell his Stellantis dealership in Tennessee to LMP Automotive Holdings Inc. LMP Automotive said in August 2021 that it planned to spend $5 million to buy the dealership, fixtures, furniture and equipment, but that deal was terminated in February.
Scott said he sold that dealership July 6.
That dealership was renamed Carville Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram. Carl Reinhart told Automotive News that he is the new owner of the dealership after he was general manager since March 2020.
In December, ZT Motors, a unit of ZT Corporate, bought Grindstaff Ford and Grindstaff Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram in Elizabethton, Tenn., from Grindstaff.
Max Motors adds fifth Ford dealership
Max Motors Dealerships of Harrisonville, Mo., on Aug. 18 acquired Swafford’s Ford Sales in Richmond, Mo., from the Swafford family. It marks Max Motors’ fifth Ford dealership.
Max Motors, owned by Mark Muller and Bob Jacaway, was founded in 2006 by Muller in Butler, Mo. Co-owner and CEO Jacaway joined the group in 2017.
Swafford’s Ford is now known as Max Ford of Richmond. Richmond is northeast of Kansas City. Max Motors was interested in the store because of its character and family history, said Kimberly Favazzo Patrum, a Max Motors spokeswoman, adding “Max is a family-based company.”
“We’re looking for dealerships that are embedded into the community, that have great reputations and brands that care about the customer [and] care about the people they serve, and that we can come in and continue that,” Favazzo Patrum said.
The Swafford family has been in the auto business for 67 years, according to Max Motors.
“We are confident the Max organization will bring excellent sales and service experience to our market area and offer expanded services at the dealership in the future,” the dealership’s former Vice President J. Rob Swafford said in a statement.
The Richmond store has a new general manager, Howard Lonsdale. Lonsdale has 30 years of auto business experience, spending the past 14 years focused on Ford dealerships, according to Max Motors.
Favazzo Patrum said Max Motors has a few more acquisitions near Kansas City, Mo., in the works that might close by the end of the year. In April, Max Motors acquired a Ford-Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram store in Nevada, Mo.
The group, with dealerships in Missouri and Kansas, also sells Hyundai, Chevrolet, Buick and GMC vehicles. It also has a used-vehicle dealership and two collision centers, according to its website.
Gerald Jones Auto adds Buick-GMC store
The Gerald Jones Auto Group of Augusta, Ga., on June 6 bought Johnson Motor Co., a Buick-GMC dealership in Aiken, S.C., said Andy Jones, an owner of the Gerald Jones group.
The seller was Duncan Johnson Jr. and family, Andy Jones told Automotive News.
Gerald Jones Auto renamed the dealership Gerald Jones Buick-GMC. It marks the group’s expansion into South Carolina.
“It was something I didn’t have,” Andy Jones said of the two GM brands.
The group, named for Andy Jones’ father, also sells Audi, Honda, Mazda, Subaru, Volkswagen and Volvo vehicles from a large Augusta dealership and has a Ford-Lincoln dealership in same city.
Aiken is east of Augusta, across the Georgia state line.
Jones said the group is in its third generation and looking for acquisition opportunities.
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