McLarty wants to merge into emerging markets
Mack McLarty: "We'll be growing in a purposeful, thoughtful manner in each market."
Business leader. State legislator. Former White House chief of staff.
Mack McLarty has been all of those. Now, in an increasingly important role in the auto industry, he's a pioneer in retailing and distributing vehicles abroad.
McLarty is chairman of McLarty Automotive Partners, which operates three growing international units with local partners. They are:
-- Yanjun Auto Group, a 16-dealership group in China whose 2011 new-vehicle sales rose 9 percent from a year earlier to 16,681 units.
-- Caltabiano McLarty Group, a 20-dealership group in Brazil whose new-vehicle sales in 2011 increased almost 6 percent from 2010 to 12,590.
-- GDV Imports Mexico, a Jaguar and Land Rover vehicle distributor in Mexico that handled 668 units last year, up 12 percent from 2010.
McLarty's group established its presence in Brazil in 2000, in China in 2006 and in Mexico in 2010.
McLarty says retail automotive in China and Brazil makes good business sense because those countries' economies are expanding and their automotive markets are developing.
"Brazil's economy is growing, and its middle class is building," McLarty says. "Their car market is well over 3 million. So they've moved into a pretty substantial place.
"The China market is really extraordinary. About 10 years ago, there were about a million vehicles sold in China and about 16 million in the United States. Today there are 18 million sold in China and about 12 to 13 to 14 million sold in the United States."
McLarty's international holdings are separate from RLJ McLarty Landers Automotive Holdings, which he owns with partners Robert Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television, and longtime Arkansas dealer Steve Landers.
Landers is an investor in McLarty Automotive Partners, which is pushing for more international growth.
Last year, it hired Jim Press, a former executive with Toyota and Chrysler, as president of international operations. His focus is on overseeing and increasing McLarty Automotive Partners' dealership business abroad, says Paul Hart, CFO of RLJ McLarty Landers.
McLarty's oldest son, Mark, was instrumental in setting up the company's international operations and is chairman of the company's China unit.
"We'll be growing in a purposeful, thoughtful manner in each market," Mack McLarty says of his company's international strategy.
"In terms of these emerging markets, we take the practices in the U.S. -- used cars, fixed operations, customer service, finance and insurance -- and use those same processes and practices, with sensitivity and respect to local culture, in Brazil and China."
McLarty, a third-generation dealer, has held several prominent positions, any one of which would fulfill a lifetime career goal for most people.
In 1969 at age 23, he was elected to the Arkansas Legislature and in 1983 was named CEO of Arkla Inc., a natural gas distributor. He held that position until 1992, when his lifelong friend, Bill Clinton, asked him to be White House chief of staff.
He also was a presidential counselor and special envoy for the Americas.
McLarty left the White House in 1998. A year later he became vice chairman of Asbury Automotive Group when his family sold controlling interest in its group of nine dealerships in Arkansas and Texas to the publicly traded group. He left Asbury in 2004 and in 2005 formed McLarty-Landers Automotive Group with his friend and former competitor, Landers.
The pair became a trio when they joined with Johnson in 2007.
McLarty says he gained experience with markets outside the United States during his work in the Clinton administration. He says those markets represent great business opportunities.
He adds: "We like the geographic balance of the United States and the emerging markets."
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