Auto Dealer Valuation Insights

A weekly update on issues important to the Auto Dealer industry


Valuation Issues

Dealership Working Capital

A Cautionary Tale Against Rigid Comparisons

Understanding the intricacies of business valuation, particularly for auto dealerships, involves a comprehensive examination of balance sheets, income statements, and normalization adjustments. We explore the significance of tangible and non-operating assets, the nuances of working capital, and the critical nature of management insights in assessing a dealership’s true value. A case study highlights the multifaceted approach required, underscoring the importance of expert analysis in navigating the complex terrain of financial assessments and valuations.

Do You Know How Much Your Dealership Is Worth?

Whitepaper: Understand the Value of Your Auto Dealership

If you’ve never had your auto dealership valued, chances are that one day you will. The circumstances giving rise to this valuation might be voluntary (such as a planned buyout of a retiring partner) or involuntary (such as a death, divorce, or partner dispute). When events like these occur, the topic of your auto dealership’s valuation can quickly shift from an afterthought to something of great consequence.

Driving Value: Key Components of an Auto Dealership Valuation

The value of an auto dealership is shaped by several factors, similar to how certain components make sports games iconic over time. Some of these value drivers, such as franchise affiliation and real estate conditions, can be influenced by the dealer, while others, like economic performance and location, are largely external. Just as sports fans revel in the nostalgic moments of iconic games, auto dealers can enhance their dealership’s value by understanding these drivers, focusing on what’s within their control, and adapting to external market conditions.

Special Topics

Tax Planning for Auto Dealerships

Why Auto Dealers Might Not Pay “Market” Rent

In business valuation, appraisers seek to normalize historical earnings to establish the level of earnings an investor might reasonably expect from an investment in the subject company. These adjustments may increase or decrease earnings, and they can be for a variety of reasons. Normalization adjustments include surveying various expense categories and determining whether the amount historically paid is considered “market rate.”

Rent paid to a related party is frequently judged to be above or below market, which can be for a variety of reasons. Dealers’ priorities lie more with sales and operating efficiency than tracking what the market says they should pay in rent. The rent paid also may be artificially high or low for tax purposes. In this post, we examine what exactly this means, and why auto dealers may hold real estate in a separate but related entity from the one that owns the dealership operations.

6 Events That Warrant a Business Valuation of an Auto Dealership

Understanding the value of an auto dealership is crucial during significant life events, strategic planning, or potential sale. This piece offers a comprehensive look at various scenarios that might necessitate a business valuation, such as estate planning, death of a dealer principal, and buy/sell agreements. Get to know how regular valuations can help track your dealership’s value over time, enhancing strategic decisions, and preparing for potential offers or disputes.

Blue Sky Mergers, Acquisitions, & Divestitures

What Is the Value of My Auto Dealership?

It Depends on Who's Buying

Wondering what your auto dealership is worth? This post gives practical illustrations of how buyers might determine the premiums or discounts they are willing to pay for your dealership. Discover the unique facets that shape the value of your auto dealership through the lens of three distinct buyer types: strategic, financial, and minority interest. Understand the dynamics influencing your dealership’s value and arm yourself with knowledge for future negotiations.

Special Topics

Plan for the Unexpected

Succession Planning for Auto Dealers

The 2023 NCAA College Basketball Tournament began last week. Many of us have been checking our brackets obsessively.  There’s a reason it’s called March Madness.  Who would have predicted that Fairleigh Dickinson would upset Purdue or that Princeton would upset Arizona and advance to the Sweet 16? The tournament and its bracket challenges are full of possibilities but are also a source of frustration, given the unexpected twists and turns. In certain ways, succession planning for auto dealers mirrors the journey through the tournament. Just as the thought of a #16 seed beating a #1 seed wasn’t on our radars before 2018 (when #16 University of Maryland-Baltimore County beat #1 Virginia 74-54 on March 16, 2018), thoughts of a global pandemic or an inventory crisis caused by a microchip shortage weren’t expected either. The lesson to be learned: Plan for the unexpected.

In this post, we discuss some of the key factors to be considered in the succession planning process and why they are critical. 

Special Topics Used Vehicles

2022 Auto Dealer Industry Metrics Review

Has Profitability Peaked?

As we turn the calendar to March, 2022 is in the rearview mirror, and year-end statistics for the auto industry have been released. How did the industry perform, and what do the metrics tell us about the direction of the industry in 2023? In this post, we discuss the key metrics we track for the industry: new vehicle profitability, the supply of new vehicles, average trade-in equity values of used vehicles, the used-to-new vehicle retail unit sales ratio, fleet sales, and vehicle miles traveled. 

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.

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.

Auto Dealerships

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