AutoNation buys Stellantis, Subaru, Volkswagen, Mazda and Hyundai dealerships in California

Written by:
Julie Walker
June 13, 2023

AutoNation purchased five dealerships from Bob Baker Auto Group near San Diego. The stores operate within Carlsbad Car Country auto mall.

Retail auto giant AutoNation Inc. purchased the final five dealerships from another familiar name near San Diego on June 5: Bob Baker Auto Group.

AutoNation acquired Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram-Fiat, Subaru, Hyundai-Genesis, Volkswagen and Mazda stores in Carlsbad, Calif., Bob Baker Auto CEO Chris Baker said.

AutoNation representatives did not return requests for comment.

Baker told Automotive News he chose to sell for strategic reasons, including wanting to avoid industry challenges moving forward.

“California continues to get more and more complicated to be an employer,” he said. “My thought was either I need to get big or get out.”

Baker said a big part of the automotive business he loves is working with his employees. He felt “going big” would take him further away from them.

The stores operate in the San Diego metro area, within Carlsbad Car Country auto mall, a high-volume area, according to Erin Kerrigan, managing director of Kerrigan Advisors, a dealership sell-side firm in Incline Village, Nev., who represented Baker in the sale.

“There are very few markets with a view of the Pacific Ocean and that have the kind of volume that Carlsbad represents,” said Kerrigan. “So buyer demand for these franchises was particularly high. For AutoNation, it was particularly strategic given their presence already in the auto mall” with a BMW dealership.

The stores were the last of the Bob Baker group. The deal included a Genesis dealership that AutoNation will close, Kerrigan said.

Baker said he bought out his father, the late Bob Baker, over 10 years, aside from a few stores his father had sold separately.

Bob Baker, who died in 2021 just shy of his 90th birthday, bought his first dealership in 1965 in Indiana. He moved to California and built up his group, eventually owning more than 20 franchised dealerships.

Chris Baker said he knew AutoNation would bring the stability he wanted for his company and employees, most of whom stayed on with AutoNation. Because he leases the property the dealerships sit on, Baker said he wanted a reliable tenant, and knew AutoNation offered that, too.

AutoNation purchased four Colorado stores in December. In July and August, it divested three dealerships, including an Audi store it sold to Sonic Automotive Inc.

AutoNation, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., ranks No. 2 on Automotive News’ list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S., with retail sales of 229,971 new vehicles in 2022.

About Kerrigan Advisors

Kerrigan Advisors is the premier sell-side advisor and thought partner to auto dealers nationwide. The firm advises the industry's leading dealership groups, enhancing value through the lifecycle of growing, operating and, when the time is right, selling their businesses. Kerrigan Advisors has represented some of auto retail's largest transactions and advised more of the largest dealership groups in the US than any other buy/sell firm in the industry. Led by a team of veteran industry experts with backgrounds in investment banking, private equity, accounting, finance and real estate, the firm does not take listings, rather they develop a customized approach for each client to achieve their personal and financial goals. In addition to Kerrigan Advisors' sell-side advisory and capital raising services, the firm also provides a suite of consulting services including growth strategy, market valuation assessments, capital allocation, transactional due diligence, open point proposals, operational improvement and real estate due diligence.

Kerrigan Advisors monitors conditions in the buy/sell market and publishes an in-depth analysis each quarter in The Blue Sky Report®, which includes Kerrigan Advisors' signature blue sky charts, multiples, and analysis for each franchise in the luxury and non-luxury segments.—To download a preview of the report, click here.—The firm also releases monthly The Kerrigan Index™ composed of the seven publicly traded auto retail companies with operations focused on the US market. The Kerrigan Auto Retail Index is designed to track dealership valuation trends, while also providing key insights into factors influencing auto retail.—To access The Kerrigan Index™, click here.—To read the—2023 Kerrigan OEM Survey, click here.—Kerrigan Advisors also is the co-author of NADA's Guide to Buying and Selling a Dealership.

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