Larry Van Tuyl, chairman of the 81-store dealership group now known as Berkshire Hathaway Automotive, said he'll continue to follow that handshake policy. He also noted that Van Tuyl Group had never been turned down for manufacturer approval of a deal.
Berkshire Hathaway Automotive intends to stay in the U.S., at least "for now," Van Tuyl said. He earlier had said on CNBC that the group's acquisition activities were focused "in the U.S., primarily." But he wants to expand beyond the 10 states in which the group currently has stores.
Buffett deflected a question about whether he worries that he overpaid for Van Tuyl Group by buying in an environment in which experts say dealership prices are at all-time highs. "We're buying forever. I don't buy based on this year's earnings or this month's earnings or this day's earnings," he said. "We'll own it 50 years from now."
The price tag on the Van Tuyl deal hasn't been disclosed, but some experts have estimated it at more than $4 billion. Before the purchase by Berkshire Hathaway, Van Tuyl ranked No. 4 on the Automotive News list of the largest U.S. dealership groups, with retail sales of 139,538 new vehicles in 2014.
Buffett said he's received a "good Detroit welcome" from such automaker leaders as General Motors CEO Mary Barra and Ford Motor Co. CEO Mark Fields. He noted Barra sold him a new Cadillac on a six-minute drive to lunch nearly a year ago. "She's plenty good," Buffett said.
Buffett, who said he subscribed to Automotive News in his teens, also noted that he sold his old 2006 Cadillac for charity for $122,000, adding "if any of you guys need a good used-car salesman."
Van Tuyl said Buffett has told him to continue what he's been doing. "And he means it," Van Tuyl said. "Really, nothing has changed, and we don't contemplate any change."
But that doesn't mean Berkshire Hathaway Automotive won't try out new ideas, Van Tuyl said.
Upon announcing the Berkshire Hathaway deal last October, Van Tuyl mentioned that the dealership group was studying the formation of a captive finance arm that would operate online. He also noted at that time that he could explore opportunities to collaborate with other companies in the Berkshire Hathaway stable.
"We've got enough size and scale now," Van Tuyl said today. "And we'll have a lot more to go and try different things and see what is successful."
Jamie LaReau contributed to this report.