Hollingsworth said the manufacturers had long pushed him to make the renovations. He resisted, saying it wasn't a wise investment at his age. Now that the stores have sold, "I'm absolutely thrilled not to have to deal with the manufacturers anymore," he said.
Hollingsworth said he appreciated the opportunities the manufacturers provided going back to 1968, but he lamented that the dealer-factory relationship has become so adversarial. "It's almost like the factories consider the dealers a necessary evil," he said. Hollingsworth noted that his criticism is directed at BMW and Mercedes; Toyota, by contrast, has been great to work with, he said.
Hollingsworth, a general surgeon who attended the University of Mississippi and Harvard Medical School, continues to do flight physicals for airline pilots. Some proceeds from the sale of the dealerships likely will go to Ole Miss, he said. The football field there is named for Hollingsworth, a longtime supporter of the school.
One of Hollingsworth's most prominent memories as a dealer came in 1993 when he won a jury award of nearly $40 million in damages from Southeast Toyota Distributors Inc. in a lawsuit saying he was punished with lower allocations for refusing to falsify sales. Southeast Toyota appealed, and Hollingsworth said he ultimately agreed to settle for about half the jury award.
Badar, a Pakastani-American who grew up in Humble, Texas, has big plans for ZT Motors. Dealership revenue is north of $150 million with 2014 earnings of about $6 million, he said. He's aiming for $7 million in earnings this year and $10 million to $12 million by year three of ownership.
Before the acquisition, the dealerships sold as many as 180 new and 120 used vehicles per month. In 2015, ZT Motors is targeting an increase of 20 percent in new-vehicle volume and 10 percent in used-vehicle volume. By 2017, it wants to sell at least 450 new and used vehicles a month at retail and wholesale.
While the dealerships are making good money, there have been missed opportunities, Badar said. "There is so much upside," he said. "I would say Benjamin Franklins are flying out the door every minute there."
Ultimately, Badar wants ZT Motors to post $25 million in annual earnings. But that means more stores. He wants to prove himself to the manufacturers and get dealerships much the way Hollingsworth got his, without blue sky.
Said Badar: "My goal is open points."