The auto industry's largest black-owned retailer aims to double in size during the next few years.
Acquisitions will continue to be the primary engine for growth by RLJ-McLarty-Landers Automotive, said Lisa Warner Pickrum, executive vice president of the retailer and COO of the RLJ Cos.
The retailer already has grown from 10 stores to 24, including a Harley-Davidson dealership, since 2007, when RLJ bought a majority interest in the McLarty-Landers dealership group. In 2009, RLJ-McLarty-Landers had total revenues of $641.7 million.
"We're going to be over $800 million in revenue by the end of this year," Pickrum said. "And we think we can probably double that."
The time frame for such an expansion is two to three years, and Pickrum is in charge of executing that goal.
She has led the company's acquisition activity since 2007. During that time, the company took some risks with some of its purchases. For example, RLJ-McLarty bought Chrysler stores during a shaky time for the domestic manufacturers. But by leveraging the company's existing technology support platform, such purchases are now paying off with profitable returns, Pickrum said.
"It was a tough time in automotive, but it also made for a lot of good deals," she said.
Good opportunities are still out there. "People are becoming more comfortable that prices are as low as they're going to go, so now is the time to buy," Pickrum said.
RLJ-McLarty currently is looking at several deals, she said, though nothing is imminent. She said she expects to make a couple of acquisitions within the next six months.
The company primarily wants to buy in markets where it already has dealerships.
Target states include Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Oklahoma and Tennessee -- places within a day's drive or a one-hour flight from RLJ-McLarty headquarters in Little Rock, Ark. The company also will consider stores in the mid-Atlantic region near RLJ's Bethesda, Md., corporate headquarters. It recently purchased a Honda store in Bel Air, Md.
That was the company's first Honda store, and Pickrum would like more. Brand diversification is a focus of the acquisition strategy.
RLJ-McLarty's biggest concentration is in Chrysler Group brands with about half-dozen stores, Pickrum said. Other franchises in the group include Ford, Nissan, Toyota, Mercedes, Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Subaru.
With new-vehicle retail sales of 12,046 units in 2009, RLJ-McLarty-Landers Automotive is ranked No. 31 on the Automotive News list of the top 125 dealership groups in the United States.
The company recently was named No. 1 on Black Enterprise magazine's list of the nation's largest black-owned auto dealers, up from No. 3 last year.