Auto Dealer Valuation Insights

A weekly update on issues important to the Auto Dealer industry

Category

COVID-19 Coverage


Public Auto Dealers

Q3 2020 Earnings Calls

Low Supply and SG&A Reductions Lead to Record Earnings

As we do every quarter, we take a look at some of the earnings commentary from major players in the industry. These trends give insight into the market that may exist for a private dealership.

SAAR

Last Quarter Took an L, but This Quarter We Bounce Back

SAAR Is Reaching a Post-Pandemic High, and Pent-Up Demand Is Leading to an Expected Bounce Back of M&A Activity

In September, lightweight vehicles marked a notable accomplishment during a tumultuous year, increasing to a seasonally adjusted 16.3 million. This is a 10% pickup from August, and the fifth consecutive monthly increase as the industry is recovering from lows at the beginning of the year. M&A activity for dealerships in the first half of the year has been delayed or cancelled as uncertainty has widened the bid-ask spread. However, there is evidence of pent-up demand which could lead the second half of the year to reach record levels.

Special Topics Valuation Issues

Take Advantage of Current Estate Planning Opportunities While You Can

While economic recovery is still uncertain as the pandemic continues on and new relief bills are on the ropes, there are other ways outside of the box for auto dealers to show resiliency during this time and plan for economic success going forward. This includes opportunities that exist in estate planning this fall for owners of assets in the auto dealer, and all, industries. Three converging factors have this fall shaping up to be the busiest estate planning season since 2012:  potentially depressed valuation of assets and businesses, historically low interest rates, and uncertainty regarding the political administration going forward. 

Blue Sky Mergers, Acquisitions, & Divestitures

Blue Sky Multiples Rebound from Q1 Declines but Full Recoveries Reserved for Top Brands

Blue Skies Ahead?

In this post, we review Haig’s Q2 report on trends in auto retail and their impact on dealership values. We’ll also look at how Blue Sky multiples have rebounded after declines in Q1. While most brands saw a partial recovery, a return to pre-COVID multiples was largely reserved for brands with the highest multiples in their category (luxury, mid-line import, and domestic).

SAAR

Used Cars are Stealing the Spotlight

Consumers Seek Budget Friendly Options as Economic Struggles Continue

With a shaky economy on many people’s minds, a winner in the auto dealer industry is emerging: the used car market. With new car advertisements flooding airwaves, used cars have often been overlooked in favor of “what’s new.” We are also at fault for this, with several of our recent blog posts being centered around electric vehicles and new vehicle inventory constraints. However, used cars are stealing the spotlight.

Public Auto Dealers

Q2 2020 Earnings Calls

Constrained Inventories and Improved SG&A Margins Expected to Normalize While the Future of Omnichannel Initiatives Stays Top of Mind

As expected, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrust many dealerships into relying on their digital and omnichannel offerings due to complications arising from stay-at-home orders. Further government restrictions have curbed new vehicle supply as manufacturers have struggled to ramp up supply. Many dealers noted inventory shortages. However, with sales volumes significantly below the 17 million seen over the last several years, both the numerator and denominator of the days of supply statistic are declining.  Lower sales mean lower inventory isn’t a deal breaker; in the short term, limited supply has led to some gross margin improvement.  However, total gross profit is still significantly down due to the lower sales (combination of lower inventory and lower demand). While sales have improved sequentially as restrictions have eased, parts and service (particularly collision) have trailed in their recovery as fewer miles driven has translated into reduced demand. Analysts inquired about the potential for stay-at-home orders to be ramped back up, particularly in large states such as Texas, California, and New York, though executives largely downplayed the likelihood and the impact it would have on their businesses.

Mergers, Acquisitions, & Divestitures

Fiat Chrysler & Peugeot (PSA) Merge into “Stellantis”

Analyzing the Timeline and Twists and Turns of a Transatlantic Merger During a Pandemic 

Last week, we analyzed Asbury Automotive Group’s acquisition of Park Place, a deal scuttled by COVID-19 that came back to life under revised terms. This week, we are moving upstream to look at the merger between Fiat Chrysler (FCA) and Group PSA (manufacturer of Peugeot and Citroen) and observe the new name of the entity, the merits and hurdles of the ongoing deal, and some potential impacts on auto dealers.

SAAR

June 2020 SAAR

A Lackluster Month, But a Move in the Right Direction

After SAAR rebounded in May, June’s results seem to pale in comparison. However, with SAAR coming in at just over 13 million, this is still an increase from May’s SAAR of 12.3 million. Sales have continued to remain below the previous year’s numbers, with June 2020 declining 20% from the same period 2019.

Public Auto Dealers

Vroom, Zoom, and Stock Market Boom

As we teased last month, Vroom filed an S-1 with the SEC in May enabling its initial public offering (IPO) on June 9th. The online automotive retailer priced the 21,250,000 shares at $22/share. By the end of the trading day, Vroom’s stock had increased 118% to $47.90. For perspective, the NASDAQ as a whole rose only 0.3% that day. The company positions itself as “an innovative, end-to-end platform designed to offer a better way to buy and a better way to sell used vehicles.” A press release also touted its “contact-free” nature, apparently seeking to distinguish Vroom from traditional, franchised, brick-and-mortar dealers as COVID-proof. In this post, we’ll consider Vroom’s business model compared to other online dealers, the company’s investment thesis that may have driven their spike, and see what the filing could tell us about the broader industry and the IPO market more generally.

SAAR

May 2020 SAAR

May Vehicle Sales Supported Optimistic Predictions, But a Slow Manufacturing Rebound is Threatening to Hinder This Growth

After a devastating April SAAR, predictions for a rebound in May proved to be correct. Vehicle sales in the month jumped with SAAR increasing 38.6% to 12.2 million. However, while dealerships have been able to remain open in some capacity through online sales, manufacturing plants have not had such options. Looking forward, inventory shortages and supply chain disruptions may pose some challenges for dealerships.

Mergers, Acquisitions, & Divestitures Public Auto Dealers

Q1 2020 Earnings Calls

COVID-19 Causes Declines in Q1, but Executives Maintain Optimism Going Forward

Auto dealers stock prices declined in the first quarter of 2020 following the broader market trend. Though many dealers saw year-over-year gains in sales and earnings in the first two months of the year, earnings calls focused on the coronavirus pandemic. Volumes have fallen across the country, though executives pointed to recent positive trends. Downturns have muddied the M&A market, and some companies don’t plan to rehire everyone that has been let go. Many praised the support of OEMs including significant incentives such as 0% financing. With dealership doors shuttered, many executives touted their online presence, though there was not a consensus on digital’s long-term place in the market.

SAAR

April 2020 SAAR

April Showers Bring May Flowers? High Optimism Following a Historically Low April SAAR

Proliferation of stay-at-home orders and adjusting to digital sales amid the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to April SAAR declining to the lowest seasonally adjusted national sales volumes in decades. Despite the decline, there are reasons to be optimistic about dealership sales going forward.

Divorce Litigation Valuation Issues

Complex Valuation Issues in Auto Dealer Litigation

Solving the Puzzle

Litigation engagements are generally very complex, consisting of many moving parts. The analogy that comes to mind is the nostalgic game of Tetris. Like the game, many clients involved in auto dealer valuation disputes also experience anxiety and stress as problems begin to pile up.

We hope you never find yourself a party to a legal dispute; however, in this post, we offer words of wisdom based upon our experience working in these valuation-related disputes. We begin with seven topics, posed as questions, that have been points of contention or common issues that have arisen in recent litigation engagements. We’ve also added two questions to consider additional issues raised during the COVID-19 crisis.

Special Topics Valuation Issues

Revolution or Evolution: COVID-19 Pushing Auto Dealers into the 21st Century

Are we witnessing a revolution in the auto industry similar to that of Blockbuster and online streaming, or simply an evolution into more tech-savvy dealerships? The current COVID-19 pandemic has auto dealers scrambling to find ways to maintain sales as stay at home orders are keeping customers from the dealership.  To move vehicles off the lot, dealerships have been pushed into a new era of online car sales. While many auto dealers have only somewhat dipped their toe into the digital space, they have now been pushed off the deep end.

Special Topics

A Deeper Dive into the Impact of COVID-19 on Auto Dealerships

Auto dealers are in a unique situation. While technically categorized as consumer “discretionary” items, many people rely on their cars to navigate their busy daily lives. With activity grinding to a halt amidst stay-at-home orders, cars are tipping more towards discretionary items (despite many dealerships being deemed essential businesses).

While more practical than other expensive purchases, like a designer handbag, automobiles become less of a priority when budgets are trimmed, particularly when people are staying at home. All told, this will likely lead consumers to delay their purchases of cars, particularly those who want to peruse their options by walking a lot and test driving various makes and models.

While other retail industries have fallen prey to the “Amazon effect,” auto dealers have avoided this fate because many consumers are not yet comfortable making such a significant investment without first getting behind the wheel. However, this means sales activity is even more adversely impacted by the current environment. Consumers with disposable income are more likely to spend it on other high-end items that require less personal inspection for style and feel before buying. As we’ll discuss, this is just one of the impacts the coronavirus is having on the auto industry.

SAAR

March 2020 SAAR

When Might Things Return to Normal?

The term “24-hour news cycle” doesn’t do justice to the rate at which new information becomes available and is consumed by people trying to understand the significant impact COVID-19 is having on all of us. Stay-at-home orders have created a huge demand shock, which is particularly harmful to a largely service-based economy. In this post, we contextualize some of the fallout that has been experienced and try to answer the question “when will things return to normal?”.

Special Topics Valuation Issues

Looking Back to Look Forward

Lessons for the Auto Dealer Industry

Auto dealers are a resilient, adaptable group by nature.  It’s one of the reasons many have been able to survive economic hardships or sluggish industry conditions in the past.  While we haven’t witnessed the unique totality of the conditions that are present today, auto dealers can adopt some of the principles from the Great Recession to try and mitigate the challenges during the survival mode portion that we currently face.

Auto Dealerships

Mercer Capital provides business valuation and financial advisory services to companies throughout the nation in the auto dealer industry.