AutoNation COO Berman resigns

Berman will remain with the company in an “advisory capacity” through June 30, the company said in a statement.
UPDATED: 5/15/17 8:21 pm ET - adds details

AutoNation Inc. COO Bill Berman has resigned effective immediately, the nation’s largest dealership group said Monday.

Berman, who added the president's title less than four months ago, will remain with the company in an “advisory capacity” through June 30, the company said in a statement. AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson will take on operating responsibilities while the group searches for a replacement.

"I thank Bill for his 20 years of service and leadership at AutoNation," Jackson said in the statement. "We wish Bill all the best in his future endeavors."

An AutoNation spokesman declined to comment beyond the company's statement. 

 

Berman was named president on Feb. 1. He had served as AutoNation’s executive vice president and COO since 2015. Berman was promoted to COO simultaneously with the retirement of then-COO Mike Maroone.

Brand-extension engineer

Berman had previously led the dealership group’s west coast region since 2008 with over 75 stores and over $6 billion in revenue. Before that, he had served as head of AutoNation’s Northern California market and as a general manager.

As a regional president, AutoNation said, Berman “developed several key processes for used vehicle sales and Customer Care that were implemented from coast-to-coast in every AutoNation store.”

Upon his promotion to president, the company said Berman was the “engineer on all of AutoNation’s brand extension strategy, implementation and expansion.”

AutoNation unveiled a $500 million brand-extension strategy in October with the goal of keeping customers within the AutoNation ecosystem after they purchase vehicles by offering services and branded accessories.

The introduction of AutoNation-branded parts, for instance, should give vehicle buyers at its new-car dealerships a lower-cost option for vehicle repair once the manufacturer's warranties expire. Even if those customers leave anyway, AutoNation will market its new AutoNation USA used-vehicle store service to those defectors, in competition with independent shops.

The AutoNation USA stores, which sell used vehicles, and franchised locations will sell AutoNation Precision Parts for maintenance and repair items.

In addition, AutoNation began selling aftermarket accessories such as floor mats in October. They are branded AutoNation Auto Gear presented by WeatherTech. WeatherTech is a well-known supplier of accessories.

‘Value proposition’

“It’s going to be a value proposition to our customer,” Berman said after the company introduced the wide-ranging strategy in October. “They’ll be able to have the experience of a new-car franchise dealer but at a price point that more closely resembles independent and outside repair facilities.”

In new-car dealerships, the rate of defection is high -- typically 67 percent of customers leave after warranty expiration, Scott Arnold, then AutoNation’s vice president of customer care operations, told Automotive News. AutoNation’s defection rate is a little bit better than that industry number, and the aim is to improve it further.

“We’re giving the customers options, and we think we will reduce the defection rate,” Arnold said.

Also Monday, AutoNation announced the promotion of Arnold to executive vice president of customer care and brand extensions, which include AutoNation Collision Centers, AutoNation USA Service Now, AutoNation Precision Parts and AutoNation Auto Gear.

“Scott has been with AutoNation for over 15 years, and has served in many retail operation roles,” Jackson said in the statement. “He has been instrumental in developing our brand extensions, and under his leadership, we have seen solid growth in our Customer Care business, as well as growth in our Precision Parts initiative and our AutoNation branded collision centers.”

Amy Wilson contributed to this report.

You can reach Vince Bond Jr. at vbond@crain.com -- Follow Vince on Twitter: @VinceBond86

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