Jackson, Maroone nurtured 1-brand plan since '99
For AutoNation, the move to one brand was 13 years in the making.
CEO Mike Jackson and COO Michael Maroone have nurtured the idea since Jackson joined the retailer in late 1999. But to go forward, AutoNation needed to improve its customer experience and dealerships.
Staff Reporter Amy Wilson spoke with Jackson and Maroone.
Q: How did this come about? You said as recently as 2011 you would not take a national branding approach.
A: Jackson: We're not taking a national branding approach. We do not have a national footprint and don't intend to build a national footprint. But the belief that ultimately we could unify under one brand has been there since the day Michael and I partnered together in this enterprise. The thresholds were we needed to have created a unique, compelling, peerless customer experience. To put a name on something that would create a greater expectation than we could deliver, we did not want to do.
When did you realize that you were ready?
Jackson: Starting in 2012, we had decided to overinvest in digital. What do I mean by overinvest? We were investing in a very long-term horizon, creating capabilities where the payback will come later. It's complex. It's risky. It's ambitious and it's a bet. We're making a bet. When we looked at that bet and analyzed it, we both came to the conclusion that the payoff on the bet would be exponentially stronger if we did it with one brand name rather than 15 names.
What does the AutoNation brand stand for?
Jackson: Today's customer is empowered. They have more choice than ever that came to them from digital. They don't want to go backward 100 years when it comes time to buy a car.
We embrace this empowered consumer and are determined to simplify and make the experience of acquiring the car and having it cared for as delightful as possible and with as much added value in the shortest amount of time.
What are the benefits?
Jackson: First, it's going to be a powerful brand. It's going to win customers. Second, from a pure operating point, it's highly efficient. To be running 15 different brand names in 15 different markets, there's a lot of inefficiency in the system that all goes away, saving us millions on an annual basis.
Michael Maroone, is there any wistfulness about the Maroone name coming off stores? Your family name has been on dealerships for how many years?
Maroone: Fifty-eight years. Honestly, all there is is excitement, and I really mean that. The way I've been raised and the way I've been taught the business is, it's about customers and shareholders and associates. And for those three constituencies, it's such an absolute win. I just can't wait to do it, and I can't wait to get to the next chapter. This has never been about the name on the building.
You can reach Amy Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.