Republic Industries Inc. has acquired its second Lexus dealership in Florida, raising the ire of Lexus and Toyota officials.
Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. is already involved in a legal imbroglio with Republic in Texas.
Republic's latest announcement brought a warning to the industry from Lexus Division General Manager Jim Press about Republic's aggressive acquisition binge.
'If other manufacturers don't see the handwriting on the wall, they had better look closely at this situation,' said Press.
Republic, the nation's largest auto dealer group, announced last week an agreement to acquire Gulf Management Inc., which operates Lexus of Tampa Bay and Lexus of Clearwater, for $52 million in common stock. The Clearwater store is a satellite of the Tampa Bay store, and Lexus officials would regard the purchase as a single dealership.
Republic already announced the acquisition of Lexus of Kendall, a Miami store. Gulf Management is the largest-volume Lexus store in Florida, and Kendall is third.
The latest Florida purchase appears to violate Toyota's policy limiting Republic and other public entities to the acquisition of one franchise every nine months, said Press.
It would also put Republic just one shy of its limit of three Lexus stores overall.
Press said he learned of the Gulf Management acquisition 'on the news wire' and Republic told him nothing beforehand.
At their annual meeting in Fort Lauderdale last week, Republic officials told shareholders they wished to be partners with Toyota and American Honda Motor Co. Inc. Both have tried to block Republic's dealership-buying binge.
Press did not say if Lexus or Toyota would file a legal action seeking to block the purchase. But he did say: 'We do intend to enforce our policies at any cost.'
Jim Donahue, Republic vice president of corporate communications, said his company still hopes 'to have a straight-ahead working relationship with Toyota.'
However, he said: 'I guess Toyota's definition of a partner is someone who will be a partner on their terms. A partnership would suggest dialogue. We've been pretty clear we intend to acquire new-car dealerships, and some of those will be Toyota points.'
Republic last week also announced an agreement to acquire the Steve Moore General Motors group in Palm County, Fla., including Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet-Geo, Oldsmobile and Pontiac franchises. The transaction was worth $16 million in Republic common stock.
Ron Salhany of Gulf Management and Steve Moore are signing long-term employment agreements with Republic.