AutoNation move had blessing of factories
Trivieri: A case-by-case basis
AutoNation Inc.'s move to drop regional brand names on its dealerships and use the AutoNation moniker on most of its 221 stores coast to coast came with the blessings of the automakers it represents.
That's remarkable, since many carmakers had opposed the idea when AutoNation first proposed a national brand in the late 1990s.
But just because they did it for AutoNation doesn't mean factories automatically will permit other large dealership groups to use a single nationwide brand name.
"We are not aware that other public groups are planning to make a change like this," Frank Trivieri, Volkswagen of America Inc.'s vice president of sales, wrote in an e-mail to Automotive News. "Nonetheless, we will evaluate it based on the merits of their business case."
Ford Motor Co. approved AutoNation's plan, saying the request was "not unlike many dealers who wish to identify their own brand and use uniform names for their organizations," Dave Kelleher, Ford's director of market representation, wrote in an e-mail.
But Kelleher stopped short of saying Ford would allow other large dealership groups to follow suit. "We'll review everything by cases and we'll work with our dealers/dealerships, because we know branding is important to them," he wrote.
General Motors, American Honda Motor Co., Hyundai Motor America and Nissan Americas declined to comment.
Bigland: “Great retail brand”
Chrysler's Reid Bigland, head of U.S. sales, wrote in an e-mail: "AutoNation is a strong company and a great retail brand. In my view standardizing the AutoNation name in the marketplace will not only benefit them but also the vehicle lines they represent."
Bigland said no other dealership group has approached Chrysler with a similar idea. He said Chrysler would consider any requests on a case-by-case basis.
Bob Carter, senior vice president of automotive operations for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc., gave his OK to AutoNation after meetings last summer. He said in a phone interview that AutoNation generates a lot of sales at its 23 Toyota stores and does a great job of representing the brand.
Toyota asked AutoNation to adhere to all the standards in its dealer agreements. For example, Toyota wanted the "doing business as" name to keep a geographic element, such as, AutoNation Toyota of Irvine.
Toyota is open to reviewing proposals from dealers, public or private, Carter said.
No other retailers have come to Toyota with such a request, he said. Because every dealer has a somewhat different business model, it may or may not be a good solution for them, he said, adding: "If we have additional inquires, we're open to those discussions."
Amy Wilson and Arlena Sawyers contributed to this report
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