"All indications so far are that 2013 is going to be a better year for buy-sell activity than 2012," said Alan Haig, Presidio's head of automotive services.
The public companies have closed on or are working to finalize several deals thus far in 2013, he said.
In March, Group 1 closed on the purchase of 18 dealerships in Brazil that are expected to generate $650 million in annual revenues. Group 1's first-quarter acquisitions totaled more than $220 million in value, Presidio said.
AutoNation also announced in April that it is acquiring three stores in Phoenix and Dallas with combined annual revenues of $250 million. Other public retailers say they're hunting for stores to purchase.
Haig said he's aware of three public retailers with deals slated to close by sometime in June. Presidio also is working on a number of good-sized purchases by large private dealership groups, he said.
With the robust activity in the market, dealership values continue to rise, Haig said. Blue-sky multiples for most brands are stable or up slightly this year, Presidio reported. Blue sky is the intangible value of a dealership, including goodwill value and other intangible assets such as customer lists and marketing materials.
It's expressed as a multiple of adjusted pretax income.
"Buyers are more confident that dealerships are going to continue to generate a lot of profit," Haig said. "While they wish they could buy them for less money, there are so few other attractive investments. So even while a buyer pays a little more than he or she wants for a particular acquisition, it's still going to provide a better return than they can get almost anywhere else with their capital."
Brands with rising blue-sky multiples, according to Presidio, are Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Volkswagen, Jaguar, Land Rover, Ford and Chrysler.
Volkswagen was the most acquired franchise last year by the nation's 10 largest dealership groups, Haig said. It had been underrepresented by those retailers before.
Brands with declining multiples are Kia, Nissan and General Motors brands.
Haig said Kia is marked as declining only because Presidio is evaluating the brand separately from Hyundai for the first time. He said Hyundai seems to be in greater demand so it got a higher mark.