Auto Dealer Valuation Insights

A weekly update on issues important to the Auto Dealer industry


Special Topics

Book Review: The Future of Automotive Retail (Part 1)

Discussions and Predictions of Changes to Auto Dealers in the Next 30 Years

Over the next two blogs, we will review the book The Future of Automotive Retail by Steve Greenfield.  This book discusses changes in trends of consumer behavior and technology that will likely continue to shape the auto dealer retailing experience for decades to come. In part one of this Blog series, we review the discussions and predictions caused by the “convenience economy,” including changes to power sources and vehicle production.

COVID-19 Coverage

Rideshare: Friend or Foe to Auto Dealers and Manufacturers?

In this post, we focus on the impact of Uber and Lyft on the auto industry as a whole, particularly as compared to initial concerns. We address the questions: “How has the rise of rideshare giants affected the auto industry?”, “How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect ridesharing?” and “What can we expect from the rideshare industry going forward?”

Blue Sky Valuation Issues

Powersports: Alternative Growth Opportunity for Auto Dealers

Auto dealers have experienced heightened profitability over the last two years. For dealers with excess cash from continued profits or remaining PPP funds, have you thought about the powersports industry? As one auto dealer client recently recounted to us, “if you have the skills and experience in selling high volumes of automobiles to consumers, then you have the necessary skills to also succeed in the powersports industry.” In this post, we explain what the powersports industry is and how big it is, as well as highlight similarities and differences to the traditional auto dealer industry for those interested in possibly entering this industry.

SAAR Valuation Issues

2022: How Is the Auto Industry Doing and What Does the Future Hold?

Status Quo or Winds of Change?

The first half of 2022 is behind us, and with school about to start, report cards will be here before we know it. In that same light, the auto industry has published its statistics for the first six months. This post reviews predictions by industry analysts (and us) made at the beginning of the year by analyzing several key metrics. Additionally, we discuss threats that arose during the first half of 2022 and their impact on the auto industry for the remainder of the year and perhaps longer. Finally, we offer a few predictions for the second half of 2022.

Meet The Team

David W. R. Harkins, CFA, ABV

In each “Meet the Team” segment, we highlight a different professional on our Auto Dealer Industry team. This week we highlight David Harkins, Senior Financial Analyst. We hope you enjoy getting to know us a bit better.

Electric Vehicles Valuation Issues

State of the Industry From the Tennessee Automotive Association Convention

Musings From Mercer Capital’s Music City Office

Last week we attended the Annual Tri-State Convention for the Automotive Associations of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama.  The event provided a great opportunity to discuss trends in the automotive industry with industry participants and dealers from different manufacturers and geographic areas.  In this blog, we discuss some of the trends discussed last week, including a variety of topics that we have covered before in this space. We also incorporate highlights of a presentation from noted industry analyst Glenn Mercer (no affiliation with Mercer Capital) regarding the “Dealership of Tomorrow.”

Litigation Valuation Issues

Case Review: Observations From a Recent Auto Dealer Litigation

The valuation of auto dealerships can be very challenging and complex. This week we discuss a recent Appellate Court decision, released from a case (Thomas A. Buckley v. Grover C. Carlock, Jr. that we were directly involved in back in 2019. The case centered around a shareholder oppression issue involving a minority owner of an “ultra-high-line” auto dealership. Mercer Capital was hired by the Defendant to serve as the expert witness.

Meet The Team

Scott Womack, ASA, MAFF

In each “Meet the Team” segment, we highlight a different professional on our Auto Dealer industry team. This week we highlight Scott Womack, Senior Vice President of Mercer Capital and the leader of the Auto Dealer industry team. The experience and expertise of our professionals allow us to bring a full suite of valuation, transaction advisory, and litigation support services to our clients. We hope you enjoy getting to know us a bit better.

Valuation Issues

Succession Planning for Auto Dealers

Sorting Through the Madness

What is succession planning? Succession planning is the transfer of value or leadership in a company or organization. For auto dealers, the dealership can represent a lifetime of efforts and relationships with key employees and customers.

This post discusses some of the key factors involved in the succession planning process and why they are so critical.

Valuation Issues

Price vs. Value

How Can the Conclusion of Value for the Same Auto Dealership Be Different?

“Price” and “value” are terms that are often used interchangeably but their meaning may not be synonymous in the context of a private business, or in this case an auto dealership. In this post, we examine the differences between “price” and “value.”

Valuation Issues

Don’t Turn a Blind Eye to Fixed Operations

A Look at the Importance and Stability of Fixed Operations

While fixed operations may not be grabbing any of the current headlines, auto dealers should remain focused on their importance and stability to the overall success and profitability of a dealership.  In this blog post, we analyze the recent historical contribution of fixed operations to overall dealership metrics, analyze several key indicators of future performance, and explore several myths and the changing landscape of the service department and customer relationship.

COVID-19 Coverage Electric Vehicles Valuation Issues

The Future of Auto Dealerships

How Inventory Shortages and Electric Vehicles May Shape the Future of Automotive Retail

Just as December is a good time to look back and reflect, January is a good time to look forward, to 2022 and beyond. When we value auto dealerships, we look back at performance in prior years because this helps to inform reasonable expectations for future performance. Prior to the pandemic, the directly preceding twelve months of performance may have been a reasonable proxy for ongoing expectations. However, throughout 2020 and 2021, discussions about when things will return to “normal” or whether we’re in the “new normal” have taken center stage.

In order to look forward, we must also consider the past, or as Shakespeare’s Antonio would say, “What is past is prologue.” In this post, we look at two key trends in 2021 (inventory shortages and electric vehicles/direct selling) and how they may inform how automotive retailing will look in the future.


Auto Industry Trends to Monitor in 2022

Less Is More?

What trends can we expect to see in 2022 for the auto industry? What trends will we see “less” of? What trends will we see “more” of? In this post, we examine some of these trends and offer some predictions for industry conditions in 2022.

‘Twas the Blog Before Christmas…

2021 Mercer Capital Auto Dealer Holiday Quiz

As year-end approaches, we hope to spread some cheer with our Auto Dealer holiday quiz. Merry Christmas!

Electric Vehicles Valuation Issues

EV Start-Up Rivian IPOs at Valuation of $86 Billion

What It Means for Ford, Other OEMs, and Auto Dealers

Rivian Automotive has been in the news a lot recently given its eye-popping IPO. Ford has invested in Rivian and until recently was planning to jointly develop an EV. In this week’s post, we feature a recently published piece from our Family Business Director blog about Ford’s decision to invest in Rivian from Ford’s perspective.

Differing Perspectives on the Used Vehicle Market

Feast or Famine?

Headlines persist describing inventory shortages, record transaction prices, record profitability, and predictions for when conditions will return to normal. How do we make sense of all of it? What factors are contributing to the current conditions? Like the larger automotive industry as a whole, conditions can be described as the best of times and the worst of times, or feast or famine. Interpretation of the conditions can differ depending on the perspective of the consumer or the auto dealer.

In this weeks’ blog, we offer commentary on the status of the used vehicle market and re-examine used vehicle metrics through third quarter data. We also discuss how we got here and where we are headed.

Valuation Issues

NADA Is Busy Working on Capitol Hill on Behalf of Auto Dealers

In last week’s blog, we wrote about attending some of the Tennessee Automotive Association meetings and explored the buy/sell considerations discussed there.

This week, we discuss another highlighted topic: the federal legislation that NADA is prioritizing and how that legislation could impact your dealership’s operations.

Mergers, Acquisitions, & Divestitures

The Tricks and Treats of the Buy/Sell Process from a Selling Dealer’s Perspective

Fall District Meeting Roundup

We recently attended a series of district meetings sponsored by a state auto dealer association. The topic on everyone’s mind was transactions. Because potential transactions seem to be top of mind for so many dealers, this post focuses on that. Because Halloween is right around the corner, we offer guidance about how to think about and structure a transaction in the form of Treats (what is true) as well as Tricks (what is not). We hope you enjoy the post and Happy Halloween!

Interpreting Inflation and Interest Rates for Auto Dealers

Can Retail Vehicle Prices Continue to Soar?

Inflation and interest rates are on more people’s minds lately due to supply chain disruptions across all industries. People understand how inflation and interest rates affect their daily lives when noticing the rising cost of goods/services and the cost to borrow money to buy a house, but many don’t realize that inflation and interest rates are interconnected. Inflation and interest rates are frequently linked when discussing macroeconomics and they tend to have an inverse relationship. When interest rates go up, in theory, inflation goes down. However, there are many more factors other than inflation and interest rates impacting the economy in the real world.

In this post, we discuss how we got to our current reality, what auto dealers might expect regarding inflation and interest rates, and how it all might impact the dealership.

Mergers, Acquisitions, & Divestitures Public Auto Dealers

September Acquisitions by Sonic, Asbury, and Group 1 and What They Mean for Privately Held Auto Dealerships

Smallest Public Players Getting Larger

In three consecutive weeks, 117 auto dealerships were bought across 3 transactions, each scooping up more dealerships than the last. The three smaller pure-play public auto dealership companies (Group 1 Automotive, Sonic Automotive and Asbury Auto Group) all made sizable acquisitions in a red hot M&A market coming after Lithia purchased a large private auto group back in April.

In this week’s post we discuss how these transactions highlight a couple of key themes in the marketplace for auto dealers.

Valuation Issues

Tax/Estate Planning Cheat Sheet for Auto Dealers

Winds of Change?

Benjamin Franklin famously said that the only things certain in this life are death and taxes. While both may be certain, taxes are always subject to change.

In this post, we focus on four particular proposals from the Build Back Better Act that impact estate planning and business valuations for auto dealers: 1) Estate Tax / Lifetime Exclusion; 2) Corporate Income Tax Rates; 3) Capital Gains Rates; and 4) Valuation Discounts for Passive Assets.

Mergers, Acquisitions, & Divestitures

M&A, Reinvesting in Core Operations, or Paying Dividends

How Public and Private Dealerships Should Think About Allocating Capital Amidst Excess Liquidity

Over the past year or so, many auto dealers “outperformed” particularly as inventory shortages have raised margins on new and used vehicles in 2021. Additionally, cost cutting initiatives have dealerships running more efficiently, leading to record profitability. The question now comes for public and private auto dealerships alike: what do I do with this excess liquidity?

In this post, we consider what options are available to both public and private dealers. We look at what decisions the publics are making, and what that could mean for private dealers.

COVID-19 Coverage Public Auto Dealers

Used Vehicle Margins in 2021

How Large Used-Only Auto Retailers Are Measuring Up

As our dealer clients know, automotive retailing competition has intensified with large, well-capitalized online-only retailers getting plenty of attention. Due to imbalances between supply and demand, gross margins on both new and used vehicles have increased in 2021.

In this post, we survey gross margins for the publicly traded dealerships, in light of the current operating environment and reconsider the investment thesis put forth by the new entrants.

Auto Dealerships

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