AutoNation Inc. CEO Mike Jackson wants to expand the dealership group's reach in markets in which it already operates.
The nation's largest auto retailer plans to purchase dealerships as opportunities arise in its current markets to build a bigger share position in those areas, Jackson said. The majority of AutoNation's 221 dealerships are in Sun Belt states.
"It depends where things become available, and we like our existing footprint," he said. "If something becomes available in Boston, we're not too interested. If something becomes available in Baltimore or Washington, we're very interested."
AutoNation has no stores in the Boston area. But it operates three Chevy stores and a Buick-GMC store in Baltimore, plus Toyota, Scion and Honda stores in Virginia just outside Washington.
Jackson said he wants AutoNation to handle all the major brands within a market. "It's a strategic advantage to have density in a market and have all the brands in the market," he said. "I'd rather focus my resources on those opportunities than to spread myself thin everywhere."
AutoNation has significant representation of the brands of automakers Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. Jackson has said he wants to expand his portfolio of improving brands such as Ford, Chevrolet and Hyundai while continuing to add proven performers such as Toyota, Mercedes and BMW.
Prices in the dealership-acquisition market are now fair for both buyer and seller, Jackson said, down from what he termed the "ridiculous" levels of the recent past.
That said, AutoNation has made just one store purchase in 2011: Fort Myers Toyota in Fort Myers, Fla. That store, with estimated annual revenues of $135 million, was acquired during the first quarter. AutoNation also opened four Fiat stores this year.