As dealership profits rise, buyers are shopping — but sellers are hard to find

Chaconas: “I've got more buyers than I know what to do with."

Plenty of dealers were checking in with buy/sell brokers at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in New Orleans, most of them on the acquisition trail.

"We have more buyers than sellers," said Bob Morris, a top broker at Tim Lamb Group.

As deal maker George Chaconas of Performance Brokerage Services sat at the Starbucks outside the convention hall, he watched dealers streaming out of a meeting.

A couple of them seemed eager to talk to him.

"It's unbelievable how much activity there is," said Chaconas. "I've got more buyers than I know what to do with. I've got more bankers chasing me for deals than ever. The difficulty is finding realistically motivated sellers."

He said many dealers want to ride out what's left of the booming market before calling a broker about selling their stores. And when sellers do show up it is sometimes with outsized price expectations.

Some potential sellers worry about what they would do with the windfall.

Said Chaconas: "They say, 'George you can get me $5 or $6 million, but what am I going to do with it? Where am I going to get my return?'

"There is more risk in the stock market than running their own business — something they can control.

"And these guys are control freaks."