The number one conglomerate of new car dealerships, AutoNation Inc., recently made the announcement that it will drop its regional branding identity of its dealerships in favor of the AutoNation moniker for most of its US 221 sites. The Fort Lauderdale-based company broke the news as it reported financial results that beat Wall Street expectations. Revenues jumped 13 percent to $4.2 billion as profits from continuing operations soared 17 percent to $83 million for the fourth quarter.
The transformation of the name to AutoNation all begins tomorrow, Friday, February 1st, starting with the Maroone group of dealerships, which consist of 22 stores in south Florida. Next week the Champion and Bankston stores in the Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth metro areas are expected to receive the same treatment.
In the coming months, it’s anticipated that AutoNation will spend $18 million to promote the name change. They will now be able to run the same iconic jingle, set to the Ghostbusters tune, in their 15 individual markets. Now the catchy "Who you gonna call?' will not end not with the regional dealers’ name, but with the AutoNation identity.
The company is changing the name on stores of both domestic and import brands, which last year sold 82 percent of the new vehicles built by such as manufactures as GM, Ford, Toyota and Nissan. However, the exception to the name change is that some of the 40 stores that make up AutoNation’s premium luxury division, such as Mercedes-Benz, will not be affected.
Auto analysts agree that the move will expand AutoNation's edge, because no other U.S. dealership group will come close in branding. Art Spinella, president of CNW Research, stated that their market research indicated that buyers are now comfortable with national branding.
AutoNation is expected to have 210 new-vehicle franchises, or about 180 stores, under its name by July. The next largest, would then be Hendrick Automotive of Charlotte, N.C., which roughly has three dozen stores. Though larger in combined numbers the Van Tuyl Group, Inc. merely provides management consulting services to its group of privately held automotive dealerships in the United States.
For AutoNation’s CEO Mike Jackson, the name rollout culminates 13 years of effort with his right-hand Mike Maroone. Mike Maroone joined AutoNation in 1997 when the company acquired his family's Maroone Automotive Group, the auto group that will be receiving the first transformation. The two Mikes conceived the ambitious idea for a nationwide brand when they first met in 1999,
In 1981, Republic Industries was created, specializing in waste disposal. It would later become better known as Waste Management. H. Wayne Huizenga became Chairman of the Board in 1995. Republic entered the used auto sales business with the purchase of Auto Nation USA in 1997, followed by Car Choice Inc. In 1996, Republic built twelve AutoNation locations. Republic later began purchasing new car dealerships and offering long-term contracts to owners who joined the automotive division management team. Some dealers began seeking out Republic to sell their dealerships because of the long-term contracts.
When the Maroone signs come down on Friday, it will mark the end of 58 years of the name on dealerships. Several others, such as the W.O Bankston heritage in Texas, will follow a similar story.