"The deals in our pipeline indicate that this is going to be as good a year in terms of the number of rooftops, but even better in terms of the value that our clients are getting for their businesses," Haig said.
And 2021 has been widely considered the busiest dealership acquisition year in history. Automotive News so far has tracked at least 376 transactions in 2021, involving at least 693 dealerships changing hands. In 2021's fourth quarter alone, Automotive News so far has tracked 149 transactions involving at least 316 dealerships.
The deal pace seems off to a strong start this year. Automotive News estimates at least 52 transactions have happened thus far in 2022's first quarter involving at least 78 dealerships.
"2022 is starting out very similar to the way 2021 was," said dealership lawyer Stephen Dietrich, a Denver-based partner with Holland & Knight who does a lot of work on transactions. "It's still very active. Typically, we see some sort of a slowdown in January and February just because people get done with things at the end of the year and they're recovering a little bit."
The beginning of 2022 included what Dietrich called a hangover of deals that didn't get done in 2021. As a result, the typical lull to start the year didn't occur, he said.
"The last probably 16, 17 months have been very, very active," said Dietrich. "And I would expect it to continue through probably at least the end of the calendar year."
In Automotive News' 2022 Dealer Outlook Survey, 1 out every 5 of the 196 dealers and dealership managers who responded said they plan to buy dealerships in 2022. Nearly 5 percent of respondents said they plan to both buy and sell stores in 2022.