Other significant deals of the year include Wally Darwish’s April purchase of 10 Fuccillo Automotive Group franchise dealerships and Jeff Wyler Automotive Family’s February purchase of seven Superior Automotive Group new-vehicle stores.
James Mitchell and Erin Rice of Dealership Capital Services, part of commercial real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield, represented Brown Automotive in the deal, which they called one of Brown Automotive’s biggest acquisitions. dealerships in the Washington, DC area.
They said the deal’s complicated structure in terms of real estate and dealership image and renovation projects made it a long process, but in the end it worked because the two companies s integrate well. Especially, they said, since Gramm agreed to buy the entire portfolio and keep the employees.
“He already had a relationship with a lot of these guys because they all grew up together in the automotive business here in the local DC area,” Mitchell said.
Gramm said he plans to continue his practice of helping managers become store owners.
“We completely empower our employees,” Gramm said. “And my job is to help them succeed.”
Prior to the deal with Brown, Safford had 10 new car dealerships and four body shops, all in Virginia except for a BMW store and one of the collision locations, both in Owings. Mills, Md.
With the purchase of Brown Automotive, Safford acquired three Mazda locations, two Honda dealerships, two Nissan stores and two Hyundai locations, as well as stores representing the Toyota, Kia, Subaru, Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram and Volkswagen brands.
The stores, which operated under the Brown’s Car Stores brand in its markets, are primarily in Virginia. The Toyota store, one of the Honda locations, and the muscle and classic car store are in Glen Burnie, Maryland, while the others are in the northern Virginia towns of Amherst, Arlington, Alexandria , Chantilly, Fairfax, Leesburg, Manassas, Richmond and Sterling.
Safford Automotive sold three Maryland stores to Pohanka Automotive Group in August. Gramm said he initially didn’t want to sell when Pohanka reached out, but the 2.5 hour drive to reach dealerships eventually changed his mind.
“It was hard for me to get to those stores and I felt a little detached,” Gramm said. “And I just felt like they were probably in a better position to deal with it.”
In 2021, Brown Automotive sold 11,770 new vehicles and 8,683 used, according to Cushman & Wakefield. Safford Automotive ranked No. 104 on Automotive News‘ most recent list of the top 150 US-based dealer groups, with retail sales of 9,847 new vehicles in 2021. Safford also sold 6,372 used vehicles last year. Brown and Safford’s new vehicle sales added together would have ranked the combined entity in the top 50 on the list.
Gramm said his goal is to continue to grow the business.
He expects to complete another acquisition before the end of the year. He said he couldn’t share more yet. But whatever comes next, it won’t be the sale of its first dealership, this Dodge store in Fredericksburg.
“This store was the start of it all,” Gramm said. “It’s still one of our most successful stores.”