Hello Auto, Sewell Automotive Cos. buy dealerships; Lithia sells Nissan store

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Two dealership groups expanded in California and Texas, respectively, with October transactions, while publicly traded auto retailer Lithia Motors Inc. sold a Nissan store this month.

Here’s a look at the deals involving import and luxury dealerships.

Lithia dealership divestiture
Lithia Motors Inc.
has divested another dealership from the Carbone Auto Group, which it acquired in 2016.

Lithia on Oct. 5 sold Carbone Nissan in Yorkville, N.Y., to Steet Ponte Auto Group of Yorkville, according to DCG Acquisitions, a Dave Cantin Group company that handled the transaction. The Steet Ponte group, with stores in central New York, is owned by Steve Ponte Sr. and Joe Steet Sr.


The store was renamed Steet Ponte Nissan. This is Steet Ponte’s seventh new-vehicle dealership and first Nissan store, according to its website. The group dates back to 1945.

“We are very excited to add Nissan to our lineup of dealerships,” Joe Steet Jr., director of sales for the group, said in a statement. “It’s a strong brand with a great following and we are thrilled to bring our level of customer service and family-friendly atmosphere to this new store.”

Lithia bought Carbone Auto in 2016 in a nine-dealership acquisition. Carbone Nissan is the second of that group of dealerships that Lithia has sold this year. In May, Lithia sold Carbone Hyundai, also in Yorkville, N.Y., to Frank Mastrovito.

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Brian Traugott and Brian Brown of DCG Acquisitions were the brokers on the deal.

Lithia, of Medford, Ore., ranked No. 3 on Automotive News‘ most recent list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S., retailing 171,168 new vehicles in 2020. But Lithia’s April acquisition of Michigan’s Suburban Collection makes it the second-largest group going forward.

Hello Auto grows in California
Hello Auto Group of Valencia, Calif., has purchased Mazda and Subaru dealerships in Temecula, Calif., boosting the group’s presence in the southern part of the state.

Hello Auto on Oct. 4 bought John Hine Temecula Mazda and John Hine Temecula Subaru from dealer John Hine Jr. Temecula is about an hour’s drive north of San Diego.

The stores were renamed Hello Mazda of Temecula and Hello Subaru of Temecula.

“John Hine and his dealerships have been mainstays in the Temecula community for years,” Karl Schmidt, president of Hello Auto, said in a statement. “We look forward to carrying on the Hine tradition and growing the bond with the local automotive community.”

Hine closed his longtime Mazda dealership in San Diego last month and sold the property to Carvana Co., according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. Hine opted to sell instead of spending millions of dollars on a facility upgrade, he told the newspaper.

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Hello Auto already operates Mazda and Kia dealerships in Valencia, north of Los Angeles. Subaru awarded the group a new point and a Subaru dealership is under construction in Valencia. It’s slated to open in early 2022. The group also was awarded a Mazda point in San Diego, said Chris Morris, vice president of operations for Hello Auto, who added that a temporary Mazda facility would be open while it builds a new store.

Hello Auto also has a Toyota dealership in Baxter, Minn.

Second BMW dealership for Sewell
Sewell Automotive Cos.
on Oct. 4 acquired its second BMW dealership and reacquired a Mini store that it just a few years ago let go out of business.

The luxury-focused Sewell Automotive, of Dallas, bought Classic BMW-Mini of Plano in Plano, Texas, from the Maas family. Lee Maas opened Classic BMW in 1971.

“Our family has focused our expansion on the highest quality businesses, and Classic BMW is at the top of that list,” said Jacquelin Sewell, copresident of Sewell Automotive Cos., in a statement. “We welcome Classic BMW and Mini to the Sewell family and look forward to continuing the dealership’s 50-year legacy of outstanding service to the Plano community and the greater Dallas-Fort Worth area.”

It is the 18th dealership for the Sewell group, all in Texas.

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Sewell from 2011 into 2019 operated Mini of Plano, before it went out of business. Mini this year awarded the franchise to Maas and Classic BMW added Mini into its Classic BMW dealership, according to Sewell.
The massive BMW-Mini dealership, a 160,000 square-foot facility on 24 acres, was renamed Sewell BMW-Mini of Plano. It also includes a separate used-vehicle facility.

“The Maas family feels that the future of the business we built will be in good hands and we wish that the Sewell family finds the spirit and passion alive and well for another 50 years in Plano,” said Eric Maas, director of racing operations at Fast Track Racing, a racing company that the Maas family will focus on following the divestiture.

The Presidio Group, a Denver- and Atlanta-based investment banking and advisory firm, represented Sewell in the transaction.

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