A veteran automotive retail executive has teamed up with a recognized Kia dealership manager to buy their first stores: three franchised dealerships, plus a used-car lot, in rural Texas.
Chuck Kramer, former COO of Foundation Automotive Corp., formed a partnership in February with Kimberly Eakin, general manager of Dennis Eakin Kia in Killeen, Texas.
On Feb. 27, Kramer Automotive purchased Premier Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram and Premier Chevrolet-Buick-GMC in Livingston, and a used-car store in Porter, while Kimberly Eakin Automotive purchased Premier Kia in Lufkin. Karl Williams of Elm Creek Auto Group was the seller of all stores.
Livingston, Lufkin and Porter all are north of Houston.
The Livingston dealerships have been renamed Kramer Autoplex and include Kramer Chevrolet-GMC and Kramer Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram, while the Lufkin store was renamed Kimberly Eakin Kia.
The partners accepted a buyout from General Motors for the Buick franchise a week after the transaction closed, Kramer said. Buick is offering buyouts to U.S. dealers who don't want to make investments as the brand transitions to electric vehicles.
The Livingston stores are majority owned by Kramer, with Eakin owning nearly a third. Minority partner Jason Haden, a former executive at Foundation Auto, owns 5 percent of those stores, while unnamed partner owns 2 percent, Kramer said.
Eakin owns the majority of the Kia dealership, with Kramer owning just over a third, Haden owning 5 percent and an unnamed partner owning 2 percent, he said.
Haden also handles some operations at the stores, such as compliance and legal issues, Kramer said, while Eakin will run the stores' daily operations and oversee hiring.
The partners have budgeted $1 million to renovate the Livingston stores and build an eight-bay diesel repair shop. The Kia store recently was renovated.
The partners have hired an additional 20 staffers for the stores and plan to hire 10 to 15 more employees this summer. Kramer and Eakin said they also are launching a profit-sharing plan for employees.
In the first two months of ownership, sales have risen sharply at the Kia store, and the partners say they may acquire additional stores.
"Kimberly is in talks on a couple of opportunities in Texas," Kramer told Automotive News. "We would like to add two or three more Kimberly Eakin stores for sure."
After selling its stores in Texas, Elm Creek Auto still owns a Volvo dealership in Overland Park, Kan. It will focus primarily on its thriving business selling dirt bikes and jet skis, said Brian Evans, principal of Ozog Consulting Group, a buy-sell firm in Scottsdale, Ariz., which brokered the deal for the seller.
"They are very successful in the power sports arena," Evans said. "They decided to stick with their core business, so they took some chips off the table."