If there was any doubt a new era of dealership consolidation has arrived, Asbury Automotive Group Inc.'s announcement last week that it would buy Larry H. Miller Dealerships erased it.
The supersized deal — one of the largest ever in auto retail — follows two other megadeals disclosed last month: Group 1 Automotive Inc.'s pending acquisition of Prime Automotive Group and Sonic Automotive Inc.'s agreement to buy RFJ Auto Partners Holdings Inc. In April, Lithia Motors Inc. acquired Suburban Collection's 34 stores.
Those transactions, alongside a spate of smaller acquisitions this year, make 2021 the biggest year for dealership mergers and acquisitions in decades. But with the surge in activity by publicly traded groups and economic conditions ripe to support more sales, the big-deal era is just getting rolling, some market watchers say.