In my previous post “2017 in Review: Trends in Retail Auto Mergers and Acquisitions,” I highlighted an all-too-familiar and continuing trend: the battles between buyers and sellers over valuation — battles that arise from what I like to call the “value disconnect.”
Sellers, who naturally want to get top dollar for their dealerships, are often reluctant to admit annual sales increases or operational efficiency haven’t been the same as in years past. Buyers, who naturally want to pay as little as possible, use this fact in an attempt to negotiate a lower price. Bringing the two sides closer to a reasonable valuation of a given dealership can be one of the biggest challenges in the negotiating process.
Unfortunately, finding a phrase to reflect the source of this friction (the phrase “value disconnect”) is far easier than pining down its causes or finding a “go to” tactic to combat it. In this post, I examine the causes of the value disconnect, separating the causes attributable to the seller from those attributable to the buyer, and I offer guidance on how to
In any industry, an annual retrospective reveals trends that signal a shift away from the past and toward the future of the industry. A look back at 2017 in the retail auto sector calls attention to some trends that were expected and others that appear to be prognostications finally coming true.
Let’s take a moment to review some of the most important developments in the auto retail sector in 2017.
The Value Disconnect
The ongoing battle between buyers and sellers with respect to the value disconnect continued in 2017. We have seen some movement perhaps, to sellers looking at 2017 performance and realizing that while an auto dealership is still a good business, the sales increases were not the same as in recent years past. This may have had the effect of driving more sellers to market thereby creating volume in 2017.
Succession Planning or Lack Thereof
For years pundits and anyone watching the industry have been forecasting mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity would rise to some degree because of family succession. It took some time, but in 2017 this appears to have started. This type of transaction has taken many forms. Some family sellers have determined the next generation will not (or cannot) operate the business, so they put the family business up for sale. In other instances, no “next” generation is available to take over, so the owner looks to transfer the business to trusted management or a third party. Unfortunately, I have also started to see forced sales because the owner either