Group 1 of Houston buys 12 London dealerships


Dealership buy-sells took a global turn last week, with Group 1 Automotive Inc. buying a dozen dealerships outside of London and a Dutch group investing in Houston's indiGO Auto Group.

Group 1, also of Houston, finalized the acquisition of Beadles Group Ltd. of England. Beadles' 12 dealerships are expected to generate $330 million in annual revenue.

The acquisition expands Group 1's presence in the U.K. to 43 dealerships that are estimated to generate more than $2 billion in annual revenue. Publicly traded Group 1, the third-largest dealership group in the U.S., also has 16 dealerships in Brazil.

Hesterberg: "Bolsters scale"

"This acquisition bolsters our scale, provides additional management resources, and introduces new brand partnerships in the U.K.," said Group 1 CEO Earl Hesterberg in a statement.

The acquired stores, which sell seven brands in southeast greater London, will continue to operate under the Beadles name. The additions will expand Group 1's Jaguar and Land Rover operations, and will add the company's first Volkswagen, Skoda, Toyota, Vauxhall and Kia dealerships in the U.K.

Separately, indiGO Auto Group formed an alliance by receiving an investment from Pon Holdings BV, a Dutch transportation and mobility company and luxury brand distributor in the Netherlands.

The sizes of the investment and of the stake that Pon is taking in indiGO were not disclosed.

IndiGO Auto Group has 10 dealerships in Houston, St. Louis and Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage, Calif. The group sells 12 luxury brands: Porsche, Audi, Jaguar, Land Rover, Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Aston Martin, Maserati, BMW, Bugatti, McLaren and Lamborghini.

Blue: Pon has mobility focus.

Little change

The alliance will change little at the dealership level, indiGO CEO Todd Blue told Automotive News. But the partnership will help the dealership group "grow in a larger, more thoughtful way than maybe we would have been able to do by ourselves," through organic growth and acquisitions, he said.

"This is not a normal public company. This is not private equity. This is not Warren Buffett. This is not any of that," Blue said. "This is a family business in Europe as a distributor that has chosen to come into retail automotive and partner with indiGO to focus on a very concentrated area and to take a leadership role and build on what indiGO has done."

Moreover, Pon is focused on "how the car business is really the mobility business," Blue said. Without elaborating on projects the two companies might work on together, he said indiGO is prepared to adapt to the changing field of mobility.

"We have to look at the car business as the mobility business. That is a huge reason why we selected Pon to be our partner and why they selected us because we have a tremendous focus on that," he said. "It allows us to maximize our current luxury portfolio and utilize [Pon's] knowledge in other sectors to create a holistic mobility company at the retail level."

‘Ideal platform'

"IndiGO Auto Group provides us with the ideal platform into the U.S. vehicle market," a Pon spokesman said in a statement. "Our combined expertise in luxury vehicle sales, along with indiGO's outstanding reputation and established leadership position in several key regions, offer a great starting point upon which we expect to achieve thoughtful but significant business growth in the North American market in coming years."

Pon does business in 32 countries, and imports and sells the Volkswagen, Porsche, Audi, Lamborghini, Bentley and Bugatti brands in the Netherlands. With indiGO, the company plans to grow organically and through acquisitions in North America, the statement said.

Pon's first venture into the automotive business was in 1947 when Ben Pon Sr., co-founder of the company, became the first person to ship Volkswagens to the U.S. Pon Holdings has been the distributor for Volkswagen in the Netherlands for 70 years and for Porsche for 68 years.

More recently, it has ventured into other mobility ventures. In 2014, Pon acquired Greenwheels, a car-sharing company in the Netherlands, for example. Earlier this year, Pon acquired Faraday Bicycle, an electric bike company in San Francisco. It sells two other electric bicycle brands, as well as traditional bicycles.


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