Dealer Mega-Deal, Ford Skunkworks Update, Buc-ee’s Heads West 

March 20, 2024
Welcome to Wednesday as we talk about the latest mega acquisition deal. We also cover the latest on Ford’s internal skunkworks EV project as well as a big move west for gas-station chain Buc-ee’s. 
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Show Notes with links:

Following an initial announcement of a deal back in January, Holman expanded its auto retail empire by closing on the acquisition of Leith Automotive Group, a move that nearly doubles Holman's dealership count. some text

  • This strategic acquisition includes over 20 franchised dealerships across North Carolina, marking the largest buy in Holman's century-long history. 
  • The deal, which also brings 1,900 new employees to Holman, bringing their total employee count to 4500 while introducing 13 new brands to its portfolio
  • The Leith name will remain on the acquired stores
  • Chris Conroy, Holman CEO: "This acquisition...puts our business in a position to win for the next 100 years."
  • Prior to the acquisition, Leith was the first Dealer to partner with Vietnamese EV maker Vinfast
  •  Kerrigan Advisors, who will be on the main stage at ASOTU CON in May,  represented Leith in this mega-transaction

Ford is gearing up to counter the influx of affordable Chinese EVs with its own low-cost electric platform with new information surfacing since their announcement last month of an internal skunkworks project to develop low cost EVs quicklysome text

  •  Set to debut in 2026, this initiative will introduce three new EV models: a compact SUV, a small truck, and possibly a ride-hail service vehicle, starting at $25,000. 
  • The vehicles will be powered by cost-effective lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) batteries, are intended to accelerate Ford's strategic shift towards making profitable, accessible EVs within a year of their launch, contrasting sharply with its previous focus on trucks and SUVs
  • Jim Farley, Ford CEO said "The ultimate competition is going to be the affordable Tesla and the Chinese [automakers]."

The first Colorado Buc-ee's has opened in Johnstown, CO bringing its renowned travel center experience, known for pristine restrooms and freshly prepared food, the facility offers an array of amenities, including a brisket west of Texas. some text

  • This new location spans 74,000 square feet and features 116 fuel pumps, staffed by over 275 employees to maintain 24/7 operations.
  • Coloradans, previously unfamiliar with Buc-ee's, ventured for the first time, intrigued by its offerings as fans eagerly lined up outside the front doors in the early hours of the morning, cheering as doors opened at 6 a.m.
  • Families like the Cowins’, combined their spring break outing with exploring Buc-ee's vast array of amenities and hype, grabbing souvenir t shirts as soon as they entered
  • Josh Smith, director of operations for Buc-ee’s said, “We want to remember that we’re here to offer that safe environment for the family travelers. We want them to know that they’re going to be comfortable taking their kids. Mom can take the kids into the restroom and not have to worry about anything. It’s safe. Everybody in the car is going to be able to get something that they want without having to make five different stops.” 

Paul J Daly: 0:19

Yo, it's Wednesday. All right, feels like it was just Monday, just two days ago. Oh, we got some fun stuff to talk about today a another dealer mega deal. The Ford skunkworks project and buches heading west. I've still never been to a buches by the way, they stopped this deal with me.

Kyle Mountsier: 0:38

All right. Where's the mirrors? buches to me,

Paul J Daly: 0:43

yeah to you.

Kyle Mountsier: 0:44

About an hour north hour and a half north north. Okay, there's never like 30 minutes from Beaver Toyota, you know?

Paul J Daly: 0:52

Okay, well, that seems like a more which direction? It's a little bit

Kyle Mountsier: 0:57

west and a little bit like Northwest Okay, that

Paul J Daly: 1:00

sounds like it's it's feasible. We are going to be usable.

Kyle Mountsier: 1:03

Kind of think where else like near Florida right. And like Florida, you can find some yesterday in your

Paul J Daly: 1:09

Cirilo in Dallas. Oh, absolutely. Yeah.

Kyle Mountsier: 1:13

Texas has them like littered all over the place. Okay.

Paul J Daly: 1:16

Okay. All right. We'll talk about the Bucky story in a little bit. But I'm just every time I read a Bucky story, I'm like, I feel like I don't know what's up. Right. Like, I know, but I don't know.

Kyle Mountsier: 1:24

You have no clue?

Paul J Daly: 1:25

I have no clue. You have no clue? Do you actually do it?

Kyle Mountsier: 1:28

It's like a Disney World of convenience stores. It's not I mean, a gas station.

Paul J Daly: 1:32

Oh, my gosh, oh, my gosh. Well, we have a bunch of stuff, a fun webinar going on today at 1pm. Eastern. We're going to talk about how Ron Bouchard, Otto is bridging the online installed financing gap with upstart. So this is our second in the series about bridging the digital divide. The last one was great. What I love about these is the last one and this one, bringing actual dealer experience and insight into the conversation. So other dealers can learn from what's actually being done on the frontline. It's not like a theory. It's not you know, just information it's actually practice, which is why we do these quick, you know, 2025 minute webinars so you can get in, learn a thing, get out, you can register for free, just go to a And you just scroll up, you might not even have a score, you might see it right right on the first friend on the first page. So join us because last one was awesome. We had a lot of fun on these. You and I will both be there. I was on it last time, but to this year, I mean this today's webinar, it's both of us. So I'm sure we'll say something dumb, which is probably worth the price. Yeah,

Kyle Mountsier: 2:35

there's you got to have a laugh every once in a while. For someone else doesn't really matter.

Paul J Daly: 2:40

Speaking of ambition, a soda con 55 days away. You know, it's the big countdown we're under 60 days and the momentum is building tickets are going the hotel rooms are going we said it yesterday, we'll say it again. If you're planning on going, go to ASOTU Get your hotel room and your ticket so that you can stay in the venue Hotel. They've allocated us a big chunk of the rooms in the hotel. It's actually the vast majority of all the hotel all the rooms in the live Casino Hotel. So we want you to be there. There's no There's other good hotels like around but if you want to be in the venue close, you know, it's what a sort of cons about being close. Yeah, that's it. Oh, no, no. Next week is more than cars premiere next week. Yeah, it is. It is more than cars. Three. I know she's so much going on right now. More than cars the Docu series we made about inspiring stories from real car dealerships coming to you from the west or auto group in Buffalo, New York, where Kyle and I had a blast filming this episode with Scott Beeler and Matt Lasher. And so much of the crew there is on the 27th we're gonna livestream it. So go to where do you get info? It's probably on the to

Kyle Mountsier: 3:50

more than You got to so You can go to our LinkedIn. It's pinned to the top. Yeah, any of those places, things going on. All right, let's

Paul J Daly: 3:59

get into some new

Kyle Mountsier: 4:00

stuff to do a lot more cars. You know what I mean? You have a lot more cars.

Paul J Daly: 4:06

First. Go there. All right. Following an initial announcement of this deal back in January, we were talking about Holman has expanded its auto retail Empire by closing finally on the acquisition of the leaf Auto Group move that nearly doubles their dealership count. So basically includes over 20 franchise dealerships across North Carolina being the largest buy in Homans 100 year plus history. It also brings 1900 new employees to home and bring their total employee count to 4500. It's a couple right there. While introducing 13 brand new brands into his portfolio. The leaf name is going to stay on the leaf stores a lot of good brand equity and goodwill built up there so we're going to keep that in place. Chris Conroy home and CEO said this acquisition puts our business in a position to win for the new Next 100 years I love that statement. And we also you may have heard this from us prior to the acquisition, Leith was the first dealer and the dealer network for vinfast, the Vietnamese Evie maker. So now that is a homerun asset and property so it'll be interesting to see how that goes. And Kerrigan advisors who will be actually on stage on the main stage at a soda con represented Leith in the big transaction. So maybe we'll ask Gabe a couple of questions. Hey, go,

Kyle Mountsier: 5:29

I love this is a great story. And this is we've seen this over the last six seven months especially where I mean I guess really the last two years where large groups are buying other large successful groups. It's not like just buying stores that are failing or missing a market and trying to revive them it's actually buying the revenue buying the employee count buying the culture and assuming that into the narrative of the group. A lot of people may ask you know where to where to the resources the financial resources the wherewithal from a group like Coleman comm to double its size, you know, Holman has a whole enterprises fleet business, venture tech business that is adjacent to their retail business and so they are a lot broader than maybe a lot of people know them in the industry as as as just the retail stores. So this also I'm sure adds to the capacity of their fleet management, fleet deliveries and and their technology capacities that they're that they're invested in so makes a ton of sense to me home and super progressive group, Leith great brand equity, like you said, in the Carolinas. So I'm excited to see what the partnership looks like.

Paul J Daly: 6:46

Yeah, it's gonna be really fun. I wish I had to say wait for this next story, but I don't. There's nothing there. But this is good. Next story. It's another kind of story about like moving forward and try new things forward is gearing up to counter the influx of affordable Chinese EVs big talk around that this week with its own low cost electric platform, where there's new information surfacing since their announcement last month of an internal skunkworks project, where they're going to have this internal team rapidly develop low cost EVs. So these this Evie platform is set to debut in 2026. It's going to introduce three new Eevee models, a compact SUV, a small truck, and possibly a ride hail service vehicle starting at $25,000. Now let's see what happens with that way. I know I know. The vehicles are going to be powered by a cost effective lithium ion phosphate battery, or batteries and intended to accelerate their strategic shift to EVs to be profitable in the first year. So Jim Farley Ford CEO said the ultimate competition is going to be the affordable Tesla and Chinese automakers. And so obviously, Ford is trying to like bypass the normal path to building a new vehicle and saying like, let's see for you to get startup level scrappy on this.

Kyle Mountsier: 8:03

Well, this is I imagine like the boardroom you know, like it like any good movie where it's like, papers are flying everywhere, everybody's scrambling around, like, what are we do? Let's move it around. Let's change it up. You know, and this is the scramble that we're gonna see not just Ford probably make over the next two years, we're gonna see a lot of the legacy automakers that saw an opportunity at the premier price point for EVs. So the market wane fairly quickly on that, and then are watching and we're watching kind of the fear of automakers outside of the US entering the US at a much more affordable price point. Taking market share from even taking market market share from their ice vehicles. So I expect this move to be done a couple times. I love it. I'm excited about having an affordable Evie out there more affordable EVs, I saw another LinkedIn post of someone talking about just how even rental vehicles are having a rental companies are having a hard time overcoming the gap between the user being ready to be in an Eevee or not. And people actually asking for ice vehicles standing in line waiting instead of just jumping in an Eevee and so things like this allow for, you know, more people to adopt it in in different different spaces being that ride hailing service. That's a easy early adopter. So kudos to Ford for doing the scramble.

Paul J Daly: 9:35

I'm excited to just see some legacy automaker get profitable on an Eevee it's gonna happen that's gonna happen and I and like, I think that'll be a big tipping point figuring that out. I have this I can't remember what movie it is, but it's probably been in a lot of movies where you have like a military base. And then you have like the special forces troops come in and they got like long beards, and they're a little more like, you got a little more bravado and they walk in front of The food's like, take food out of the thing when all the other enlisted guys are. I feel like that's the design done. Right? They come in and be like, Yeah, we don't have to follow that rule we're making the thing that actually makes money. Well, we'll see. We'll see. I mean, there's there's a lot of promises that have been thrown around on EVs in the last three years. And so I don't think anybody believes any of them. Everybody has a big will see, speaking as things to see. Segue, I want to see

Kyle Mountsier: 10:28

Paul's flying to Colorado, because that might be his opportunity to do it. A buches. The first one in Colorado is open. And if you don't know about bikinis, I mean, you know, take the rock off,

Paul J Daly: 10:42

is it the Disney World of gas stations, as

Kyle Mountsier: 10:44

you call it, it's actually I wouldn't even call it the Disney World. Like it's, it's a little bit adjacent to that it's not, it's not really perfect representation, because there's, you know, the, the experience is all about kind of the everyone gets something. And, and it's all done right in front of you. But it's it's definitely a it's definitely some form of entertainment. I will I will agree with that portion of the the Disney. So the new location, spend 74,000 square feet 116 fuel pumps, 275 employees 24/7 operations. This is the first time that that far west is going to be able to experience a buches there are families, one of the ones mentioned in the article, the Cowen's that are kind of like saying that the bikinis experience was actually a part of their vacation, not just a stop along the way, like they wanted to go there just so that they could experience it. So is almost a destination. Josh Smith, the director of operations for Bucky said, we want to remember that we're here to offer that safe environment for the family travelers, we want them to know that they're going to be comfortable taking their kids, mom can take the kids in the restroom and not have to worry about anything, it's safe. Everybody in the car is going to be able to get something they want without having to make five different stops. That's a cool brand prop.

Paul J Daly: 12:12

You know, I think this ties to what we do. What dealers do day in and day out. Gas Station experience is typically not one that people look forward to. It's not a great one. It's got a lot of stigmas to it. My wife and daughter hate it normally. Right? Exactly. From the food to the cleanliness of the restaurants to some sketchy characters to slow gas pumps. And I think buches has done an amazing job saying like, no, no, no, this could be an awesome experience. Yep, you just have to do it this way. And you have to have people that are there that want to be there and working. So some of the best dealerships that we see really do embody this mentality of like, we understand there's some stigmas, there are some unpleasant things that people have had in the past. We're going to show you that it can actually be a fun place to be. I mean, not just because the logo is a beaver but beaver toy. Definitely.

Kyle Mountsier: 13:01

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. What about the dealership? There's a dealer hot man. I wish I could remember it. But the dealer in Florida, they're putting a full service restaurant in the middle of the showroom. Oh, yeah, higher. And he your experience officer that came from the Ritz Carlton. So just really smart and savvy dealers that are making themselves destinations as opposed to stops along the way.

Paul J Daly: 13:24

So man, and I think even going back to our first store today, thinking about all these groups getting bigger, right? These big groups getting bigger now their space in the payroll to hire someone who is focused on experience, not like purchase experience, but like customer experience, which ties us back into a soda con, because we're having wills, author of unreasonable hospitality be our keynote speaker. And there is you know, he said in the book, I'm listening to it. Now I've read it twice. I'm listening to it. And he says everybody has the opportunity to decide that they're in the hospitality business. Right. And so I think just all ties full circle. We did a full circle Wednesday, y'all full circle Wednesday. And so you are not in the car business. You're in the hospitality business. You're in the experience business because people will always remember how you make them feel so got make them happy today. We'll see you tomorrow.

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