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O. C. BUSINESS PLUS

AutoNation Adds York Ford to Growing Dealer Portfolio

July 09, 1999|JOHN O'DELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In the midst of its search for a new chief executive officer, car retailing behemoth AutoNation Inc. is keeping up its blistering growth pace.

The company said Thursday that it has agreed to buy Terry York Ford in Huntington Beach as part of a $200 million purchase of 16 new car franchises in four states. York Ford, part of the York Automotive Group of Valencia, gives AutoNation 17 new car franchises in Orange County.

The purchases will give AutoNation, already the country's largest independent auto retailer, 394 new-car franchises in 276 dealerships nationwide.

With the York purchase, AutoNation will own 69 new car franchises in Southern California. In addition to the Huntington Beach dealership, York brings a Land Rover franchise in Encino and Chrysler-Plymouth, Jeep, Dodge, Honda, Chevrolet, BMW and Isuzu dealerships in Valencia into the AutoNation fold.

The Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based company also operates five AutoNation USA used car stores in Southern California, including one in Irvine.

The company also said Thursday that it will acquire Shamrock Ford in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Dublin, AutoNation's 24th new car franchise in Northern California.

Other acquisitions announced Thursday include a Toyota dealership in South Florida, a Denver-area Ford dealership, a Chevrolet and Subaru dealer in Dallas, and seven Seattle-area franchises, including the six-dealership Maria Smith Automotive Group.

AutoNation, with about $17 billion in annual revenue, reported a profit of almost $800 million last year but has been frustrated by a weak stock price. The shares, which hit a high of $42.75 in January 1997, have been trading in the $16-$18 range in recent months.

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