Despite a spat over an acquisition attempt this summer, Group 1 Automotive Inc. still wants to add Toyota stores to its network.
“If we find a Toyota dealership that meets our requirements, we won’t be deterred,” Group 1 CEO Earl Hesterberg said Tuesday.
Acquisitions are how Group 1 executives would prefer to invest the company’s cash and grow, Hesterberg said. But no deals for a dealership representing any brand are under contract at the time. Though a “significant number” of dealerships are available for sale, Group 1 hasn’t found anything recently that meets its return-on-investment criteria, he said.
In late June, Group 1’s attempt to buy Gene Reed Toyota-Scion and Lexus of Charleston was blocked after Toyota filed a lawsuit objecting to the sale because Toyota had not approved the deal. But Gene Reed quickly came to an agreement to sell the dealerships to another buyer, and Toyota dropped the lawsuit.
Group 1, the nation’s fourth-largest dealership group, hasn’t had any further discussions with Toyota on acquisitions since the Gene Reed deal was rejected, Hesterberg said this week.
“But, by the same token, we didn’t have the chance to defend ourselves in court because the seller got a $5 or $10 million better offer within a day,” he said. “So we didn’t get a chance to prevail in court, which we believe we would have.”