Viva Las Vegas: Top Six Buy-Sell Takeaways from NADA 2024
NADA’s 2024 Conference came and went with a bang. Though many of the dealers and advisors we spoke with were weary from all the events and meetings they attended, they left satisfied with their prospects for this year, particularly on dealership buy-sell opportunities. Below are the results of our completely unscientific survey of the top things we heard in Las Vegas.
1. 2024 Expected Earnings Down from COVID Peak but Still Attractive
While the high dealership earnings from the peak years of 2021 and 2022 are clearly over, most dealers are not pessimistic, as 2024 earnings are still expected to be higher than earnings from pre-COVID years. Industry expert Kerrigan Advisors confirms this in their Q3 2024 Blue Sky Report, estimating pre-tax profit per US dealership of $6.38 million for September 2023 TTM vs. annual estimates for 2018-20 of $3.2 million or less.
2. Exodus of “Boomer” Dealers Continues to Put More Stores on the Market
Though exceptions exist, many dealers in their sixties and seventies are looking to retire, especially as the industry transitions to electric vehicles and more of the sales process moves online. Unlike in prior years, though, more of the dealerships up for sale will have good financials because retiring sellers are not necessarily selling due to the poor performance of their stores.
3. “Right-sizing” of Mid-level Dealership Groups Putting Additional Stores Up for Sale
Dealers in the ten-to-twenty rooftop range that added more stores over the past few years are now looking at some of their stores and offloading them to better align their business strategies with the number of experienced managers they have in sales, finance and fixed operations. Without adding additional experienced managers, some of these dealers are simply stretched too thin from recent acquisitions to manage all their rooftops effectively.
4. More Opportunities for Outside Investors to Partner with Experienced Operators
The next generation of dealers have made their presence known at NADA 2024. For many of these rising operators, their success will be inextricably tied to pairing their expertise with outside investors. However, such investors must be willing to exchange the operational control they typically receive in other industries for a foot in the door with OEM’s, particularly those factories with luxury brands.
5. Some Factory EV Strategies Giving Buyers Pause
Several attendees we spoke with believe that battery EV’s (“BEV’s”) do not represent the immediate future for customers due to range anxiety. Factories like Ford that focus on BEV’s at the expense of plugins, hybrids or even hydrogen-based vehicles, risk seeing the value of their dealerships decline in the eye of many prospective buyers.
6. Buyers Focusing More on Social Media “Assets”
More buy-sell agreements are focusing on ensuring that the goodwill value created by a dealership’s social media accounts are retained by the dealership’s buyer. However, developing feasible plans to capture that goodwill is a challenge based upon the way social media companies manage business accounts.
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