Auto Dealer Valuation Insights

A weekly update on issues important to the Auto Dealer industry


Valuation Issues

Blue Sky

Six Things to Consider When Working with a Business Appraiser

We’ve turned the page on 2022, another year defined by challenges, record profitability and elevated valuations for auto dealers.  As we enter 2023, there will likely be unique challenges and opportunities for auto dealers regarding business valuations. We will dedicate future posts to the discussion of these opportunities from the perspective of succession planning in an environment with sunsetting tax exemptions and depressed asset values, especially if interest rates continue to rise and profitability subsides in 2023.

We previously discussed six events that could trigger the need for a business valuation. In this week’s post, we discuss six things that attorneys and auto dealers should consider when selecting or working with a business appraiser.

Special Topics

Market Insights on Auto Dealer M&A Activity

A few weeks ago, I sat down with Kevin Nill of Haig Partners to discuss the current state of the M&A market and other timely trends in the auto dealer industry.  Specifically, we discussed some of the movements in Blue Sky multiples for various franchises and interpret the range of multiples that Haig Partners recently published with the release of their Second Quarter 2022 Haig Report.  

Blue Sky Special Topics

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.

Blue Sky Public Auto Dealers

Q2 2022 Earnings Calls

Persistent New Vehicle Inventory Shortages Keep Days’ Supply Low and Pre-sales High - Consumers May Be on Shakier Ground, But Demand is Still Strong

Supply issues continue to dominate the industry with no end in sight. This week we discuss supply issues along with three other themes that were discussed during the Q2 earnings calls.

SAAR Special Topics

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.

Electric Vehicles Special Topics

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.”

An Overview of Auto Finance

Credit Risk, Trends, Used vs. New Vehicle Sales

Auto dealers across the country rely on their Finance and Insurance (F&I) departments for a significant portion of their revenue. While top-line revenue in these departments typically makes up a small portion of a new car dealership’s total revenue mix, they have much better margins than their selling division counterparts. Third-party lenders play a larger role in the financing process for used dealers who do not have their own captive finance operations, and the economics are typically different from their new vehicle-selling counterparts.

We look at the layout and current state of the auto finance industry, as well as quotes from public auto executives about the current financing environment in this blog post.

Electric Vehicles Special Topics

Smart Connected Cars, OTAs, and Their Impact on Auto Dealers

The Future of Automobiles

Connected cars are an undiscussed subplot in the current inventory crunch as more tech-enabled vehicles require more microchips, which as everyone knows by now are in short supply. In this post, we examine the size and growth of the connected car segment and discuss the struggle between auto manufacturers/OEMs and auto dealers over servicing these features.

Litigation Special Topics

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.

Special Topics

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.

Special Topics

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.”

LOV(E): Why Getting the Level of Value Right Is So Important to Auto Dealers

Part II

In this two-part series, we continue our exploration of the “Levels of value.” The Levels of Value refer to the idea that while “price” and “value” may be synonymous, they don’t quite mean the same thing. A nonmarketable minority interest level of value is very different from a strategic control interest level of value. Last week we described each Level of Value and why the concept is so important to auto dealers.

This week, we discuss four potential transactions in which selecting the appropriate level of value is critical and explain why: 1) estate planning, 2) corporate development, 3) divestitures, and 4) shareholder redemptions.

LOV(E): What Are the “Levels of Value” and Why Does It Matter to Auto Dealers?

Part I

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, we cover a topic that may seem too theoretical; however, the shareholders in your business must understand it – LOV – or the “Levels of Value.” The Levels of Value refers to the idea that while “price” and “value” may be synonymous, they don’t quite mean the same thing. A nonmarketable minority interest level of value is very different from a strategic control interest level of value. In this week’s post, we explain what each level means and how each specifically relates to auto dealers. This will be the first part of a two-part blog series.

Special Topics

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 Special Topics

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.

Mergers, Acquisitions, & Divestitures Public Auto Dealers

Q3 2021 Earnings Calls

Q3 earnings calls across the group of public auto dealers began with similar themes from the prior two quarters: record profits and earnings, record Gross Profits Per Unit (GPU) on new and used vehicles, and tightening inventory conditions. In addition to those themes, we also discuss M&A, inflation, and other areas of profitability for the public auto dealers.

Electric Vehicles Special Topics

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.

Special Topics

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.

Special Topics

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 Public Auto Dealers

Q2 2021 Earnings Calls

Public Auto Dealers Weigh Record Profits, Days’ Supply, and Capital Allocation

Second quarter earnings calls across the group of public auto dealers began with similar themes: record profits and earnings, record Gross Profits Per Unit (GPU) on new and used vehicles, and tightening inventory conditions. This week we take a deeper dive into some of those themes including remarks from management, related to expectations moving forward.

Special Topics

First Half 2021 Review of the Auto Dealer Industry

What Are Key Statistics Saying?

As we enter into the second half of 2021, first half statistics are being released and second quarter earnings calls are on the horizon for the public auto companies.  We’ve all read the headlines of the auto dealer industry in 2021:  heightened profitability, historic gross profits per unit and soaring retail sales prices for new and used vehicles, and inventory shortages and challenges caused by plant shutdowns and the microchip shortage. What are some of the key industry statistics saying about the current and future health of the auto dealer industry? Have they peaked, are they continuing to increase or beginning to decline, and/or how long will the current conditions hold? In this post we attempt to answer these questions.

Blue Sky Litigation

Formula Clauses for Auto Dealerships

Pros and Cons of Using Formula Clauses in Buy-Sell Agreements

A formula clause explains how a business will be valued, usually as part of a buy-sell agreement, employment agreement, transfer of interests under certain circumstances, or other agreement entered between owners of a company. In this post, we explain formula clauses, when they are used, why they are used, and why we ultimately recommend they not be used.

Whitepaper: Understand the Value of Your Auto Dealership

In this whitepaper, we break down the value drivers of a dealership, discuss when you might need a formal valuation, introduce the valuation methodologies used by professional business appraisers, and go into some depth about topics such as dealer financial statements and normalizing adjustments to the balance sheet and income statement.

Auto Dealerships

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