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AutoNation closes GM dealership in Fla.

Courtesy Pontiac-Buick-GMC, an AutoNation Inc. dealership in Longwood, Fla., shut its doors Thursday, Sept. 25, one day after Bill Heard Chevrolet abruptly shut down in nearby Sanford.

But company spokesman Marc Cannon told Automotive News that the shutdown had nothing to do with instability in the financial markets. Instead, he said, the closing was part of AutoNation’s long-term strategy to reduce the number of dealerships in saturated markets.

Cannon said there are five other Pontiac-Buick-GMC dealerships in the Orlando market.

Sixty employees were affected by the shutdown. Thirty have been relocated to other Courtesy dealerships and others are considering opportunities within the company.

In the company’s second-quarter earnings report on July 30, AutoNation CEO Mike Jacksonsaid the No. 1 U.S. auto retailer was committed to taking the lead in consolidating auto dealerships and “divest(ing) underperforming stores.”

The Longwood dealership sold 750 new and used vehicles in 2007.

“It was the right time to move on closing the dealership,” Cannon said. “As the market changes, AutoNation must be willing to adjust and shift its portfolio.”

Cannon said AutoNation believes that getting the dealership numbers right keeps the company “firmly in the black.”

AutoNation ranks No. 1 on the Automotive News list of the top 125 U.S. dealership groups with new-vehicle sales of 328,963 in 2007. The Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based company has a concentration of stores in Florida and California.

You can reach Patricia Scott at pscott@crain.com

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