Group 1 Automotive 10-K 2010
Documents found in this filing:
UNITED STATES SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
Commission file number: 1-13461
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None.
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Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes þ No o
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically and posted on its corporate Web site, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§ 232.405 of this Chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit and post such files). Yes o No o
Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrants knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K. þ
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Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act). o No þ
The aggregate market value of common stock held by non-affiliates of the registrant was approximately $605.4 million based on the reported last sale price of common stock on June 30, 2009, which is the last business day of the registrants most recently completed second quarter.
As of February 9, 2010, there were 24,497,257 shares of our common stock, par value $0.01 per share, outstanding.
Portions of the registrants definitive proxy statement for its 2010 Annual Meeting of Stockholders, which will be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission within 120 days of December 31, 2009, are incorporated by reference into Part III of this Form 10-K.
This Annual Report on Form 10-K includes certain forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the Securities Act) and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the Exchange Act). This information includes statements regarding our plans, goals or current expectations with respect to, among other things:
Although we believe that the expectations reflected in these forward-looking statements are reasonable when and as made, we cannot assure you that these expectations will prove to be correct. When used in this Annual Report, the words anticipate, believe, estimate, expect, may and similar expressions, as they relate to our company and management, are intended to identify forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements are not assurances of future performance and involve risks and uncertainties. Actual results may differ materially from anticipated results in the forward-looking statements for a number of reasons, including:
The information contained in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, including the information set forth under the headings Risk Factors and Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operation, identifies factors that could affect our operating results and performance. Should one or more of the risks or uncertainties described above or elsewhere in this Annual Report or in the documents incorporated by reference occur, or should underlying assumptions prove incorrect, our actual results and plans could differ materially from those expressed in any forward-looking statements. We urge you to carefully consider those factors, as well as factors described in our reports filed from time to time with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the SEC) and other announcements we make from time to time.
Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date hereof. We undertake no responsibility to publicly release the result of any revision of our forward-looking statements after the date they are made.
Group 1 Automotive, Inc., a Delaware corporation, organized in 1995, is a leading operator in the automotive retail industry. As of December 31, 2009, we owned and operated 124 franchises at 95 dealership locations and 22 collision service centers in the United States of America (the U.S.) and six franchises at three dealerships and two collision centers in the United Kingdom (the U.K.). Through our operating subsidiaries, we market and sell an extensive range of automotive products and services, including new and used vehicles and related financing, vehicle maintenance and repair services, replacement parts, warranty, insurance and extended service contracts. Our operations are primarily located in major metropolitan areas in the states of Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas in the U.S. and in the towns of Brighton, Hailsham, and Worthing in the U.K.
As of December 31, 2009, our retail network consisted of the following three regions (with the number of dealerships they comprised): (i) the Eastern (41 dealerships in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and South Carolina), (ii) the Central (43 dealerships in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas) and (iii) the Western (11 dealerships in California). Each region is managed by a regional vice president who reports directly to our Chief Executive Officer and is responsible for the overall performance of their regions, as well as for overseeing the market directors and dealership general managers that report to them. Each region is also managed by a regional chief financial officer who reports directly to our Chief Financial Officer. Our dealerships in the U.K. are also managed locally with direct reporting responsibilities to our corporate management team.
As discussed in more detail in Note 2 to our Consolidated Financial Statements, all of our operating subsidiaries operate as one reportable segment. Our financial information, including our revenues, is included in our Consolidated Financial Statements and related notes beginning on page F-1.
Our business strategy is to leverage what we believe to be one of our key strengths the talent of our people to: (i) sell new and used vehicles; (ii) arrange related financing, vehicle service and insurance contracts; (iii) provide maintenance and repair services; and (iv) sell replacement parts via an expanding network of franchised dealerships located primarily in growing regions of the U.S. and the U.K. We believe, as evidenced by the significant industry experience reflected in the biographical information of our executive officers, which is provided on page 16, that over the last four years we have developed a distinguished management team with substantial industry expertise.
With this level of talent, we plan to continue empowering our operators to make appropriate decisions to grow their respective dealership operations and to control fixed and variable costs and expenses. We believe this approach allows us to continue to attract and retain talented employees, as well as provide the best possible service to our customers.
We completed acquisitions comprising in excess of $108.4 million in estimated aggregated annualized revenues for 2009. And, we believe that substantial opportunities for growth through acquisition remain in our industry. An acquisition target has not yet been determined for 2010, but we expect to acquire dealerships in existing or new markets that meet our stringent acquisitions and return on investment criteria. We will selectively grow our portfolio of import and luxury brands, and we will focus that growth in geographically diverse areas with bright economic outlooks over the longer-term. Further, we will continue to critically evaluate our return on invested capital in our dealership operations for disposition opportunities.
While we desire to grow through acquisitions, we continue to primarily focus on the performance of our existing dealerships to achieve internal growth goals. We believe further revenue expansion is available in our dealerships and plan to utilize enhancements to our processes and technology to help our people deliver that goal. In particular, we continue to focus on growing our higher margin used vehicle and parts and service businesses, which can be expanded even in a shrinking new vehicle market. The use of software tools in conjunction with our
management focus on proven processes in the used vehicle and parts and service operations have helped to increase retail sales and improve margins over the past several years. We will continue to enhance the business in these areas in the future and make the requisite capital investments to expand our service business.
For 2010, we will primarily focus on five key areas as we continue to become a best-in-class automotive retailer. These areas are:
Despite the recent economic downturn and resulting negative impact on our business, we remain optimistic about our business model and expect that, over the long term, industry sales will rebound, reflecting a significant level of pent-up demand.
Our focus for our used vehicle operations in 2010 will include the enhancement of our processes around the matching of inventory supply with customer demand, the sharing of inventory across markets, regions and the company, the utilization of alternative means of marketing and the continued development of technological solutions to assist in the management of our used vehicle inventory. Focus in our parts and service operations will be on targeted marketing efforts, strategic selling and operational efficiencies. We believe that these initiatives will enhance our results of operations in these business areas and our overall results.
We made significant changes in our operating model during 2008 and 2009, designed to reduce variable expenses, appropriately size our business for the reduced levels of sales and service activity and generate operating efficiencies. Specifically related to personnel expenses, we initiated various wage cuts, including a 10% wage reduction for the Board of Directors and senior management and a 5% wage reduction for all other corporate employees, as well as various other regional, market and dealership level employees. In addition, we suspended the Companys match for employee contributions to their respective 401(K) savings plans. Further, we reduced headcount from the beginning of 2008 by approximately 20% to date. As it relates to advertising, our cost reductions were primarily related to a decrease in overall advertising levels and a shift to utilization of various in-house and email marketing tools, as well as our ability to capitalize on declining media rates. Other forecasted expense reductions reflect initiatives designed to reduce software solutions, contract labor, travel and entertainment, delivery and loaner car expenses. In 2010, we will continue to look for opportunities to reduce variable costs and improve our operating efficiency. And, as the level of sales and service returns to more normalized levels in the future, we will be judicious with the expansion of our cost structure to maximize our operating results.
During 2009, which was one of the most challenging years in the history of the automotive retail industry, we generated positive cash flow from operations. We expect to be cash flow positive from operations in 2010, as well. We will, therefore, be focused on opportunities to use the cash generated in the best interest of our company and our stockholders.
We continue with our efforts to fully leverage our scale, reduce costs, enhance internal controls and enable further growth and, as such, we are taking steps to standardize key operating processes. Our management structure supports more rapid decision making and speeds the roll-out of new processes. Since 2005, we have consolidated our operational structure from over 15 platforms led by Platform Presidents who directly reported to the President and CEO to our current structure of three regions and the United Kingdom, led by Regional Vice Presidents who report directly to our President and CEO. In 2007, we successfully completed the conversion of all of our dealerships to the same dealer management system offered by Dealer Services Group of Automatic Data Processing Inc. (ADP) and put in place a standard general ledger layout. During 2008, we consolidated portions of our
dealership accounting and administrative functions into regional centers. These actions represent key building blocks that we are using to effectively manage the business operations and strategically consolidate operational and administrative functions, further developing the operating model and supporting the extension of best practices and the leverage of scale.
With regards to our efforts to improve or dispose of underperforming dealerships, we are constantly evaluating the opportunity to improve the profitability of our dealerships. We attempt to capitalize on our size, leverage and ability to disseminate best practices, in order to expedite these efforts. We believe that our efforts will improve our financial condition and operating results.
Our operations are located in geographically diverse markets that extend domestically from New Hampshire to California and, beginning in 2007, internationally in the U.K. By geographic area, our revenues from external customers for the years ended December 31, 2009, 2008 and 2007 were $4,401.3 million, $5,491.8 million and $6,086.9 million from our domestic operations, and $124.4 million, $162.3 million and $173.3 million from our foreign operations, respectively. As of December 31, 2009, 2008, and 2007 our aggregate long-lived assets other than goodwill, intangible assets and financial instruments in our domestic operations were $462.1 million, $531.3 million and $418.3 million, and in our foreign operations were $21.6 million, $20.3 million and $28.4 million, respectively. The following table sets forth the regions and geographic markets in which we operate, the percentage of new vehicle retail units sold in each region in 2009 and the number of dealerships and franchises in each region:
Each of our local operations has a management structure that promotes and rewards entrepreneurial spirit and the achievement of team goals. The general manager of each dealership, with assistance from the managers of new vehicle sales, used vehicle sales, parts, service, and finance and insurance, is ultimately responsible for the operation, personnel and financial performance of the dealership. Our dealerships are operated as distinct profit centers, and our general managers have a reasonable degree of empowerment within our organization. In the U.S., each general manager reports to one of our market directors or one of three regional vice presidents. Our regional vice presidents report directly to our Chief Executive Officer and are responsible for the overall performance of their regions, as well as for overseeing the market directors and dealership general managers that report to them. Our U.K. operations are structured similarly, with a director of operations reporting directly to our Chief Executive Officer.
New Vehicle Sales
In 2009, we sold or leased 83,182 new vehicles representing 31 brands in retail transactions at our dealerships. Our retail sales of new vehicles accounted for approximately 19.9% of our gross profit in 2009. In addition to the
profit related to the transactions, a typical new vehicle retail sale or lease creates the following additional profit opportunities for our dealerships:
Brand diversity is one of our strengths. Our mix of domestic, import and luxury franchises is critical to our success. Over the past five years, we have strategically managed our exposure to the declining domestic brands and emphasized the faster growing luxury and import brands, shifting our sales mix from 36.2% domestic and 63.8% luxury and import in 2005 to 16.5% and 83.5% in 2009, respectively. The following table sets forth new vehicle sales revenue by brand and the number of new vehicle retail units sold in The Year Ended, and the number of franchises we owned as of December 31, 2009:
Our diversity by manufacturer for the years ended December 31, 2009 and 2008 is set forth below:
Some new vehicles we sell are purchased by customers under lease or lease-type financing arrangements with third-party lenders. New vehicle leases generally have shorter terms, bringing the customer back to the market, and our dealerships specifically, sooner than if the purchase was debt financed. In addition, leasing provides our dealerships with a steady supply of late-model, off-lease vehicles to be sold as used vehicles. Generally, leased vehicles remain under factory warranty, allowing the dealerships to provide repair services for the contract term. However, the penetration of finance and insurance product sales on leases tends to be less than in other financing arrangements. We typically do not guarantee residual values on lease transactions.
We sell used vehicles at each of our franchised dealerships. In 2009, we sold or leased 54,067 used vehicles at our dealerships, and sold 27,793 used vehicles in wholesale markets. Our retail sales of used vehicles accounted for approximately 12.6% of our gross profit in 2009, while sales of vehicles in wholesale markets accounted for approximately 0.3% of our gross profit in 2009. Used vehicles sold at retail typically generate higher gross margins on a percentage basis than new vehicles because of our ability to sell these vehicles at favorable prices due to their limited comparability, which is dependent on a vehicles age, mileage and condition, among other things. Valuations also vary based on supply and demand factors, the level of new vehicle incentives, the availability of retail financing and general economic conditions.
Profit from the sale of used vehicles depends primarily on a dealerships ability to obtain a high-quality supply of used vehicles at reasonable prices and to effectively manage that inventory. Our new vehicle operations provide our used vehicle operations with a large supply of generally high-quality trade-ins and off-lease vehicles, and is the best sources of high-quality used vehicles. Our dealerships supplement their used vehicle inventory with purchases at auctions, including manufacturer-sponsored auctions available only to franchised dealers, and from wholesalers. We continue to extensively utilize a common used vehicle management software in all of our dealerships to enhance the management of used vehicle inventory, focusing on the more profitable retail used vehicle business and deliberately reducing our wholesale used vehicle business. This internet-based software tool enables our managers to make used vehicle inventory decisions based on real time market valuation data, and is an integral part of our used vehicle process. It also allows us to leverage our size and local market presence by expanding the pool from which used vehicles can be sold within a given market or region, effectively broadening the demand for our used vehicle inventory. In addition, this software supports increased oversight of our assets in inventory, allowing us to better control our exposure to used vehicles, the values of which typically decline over time. Each of our dealerships attempts to maintain no more than a 37 days supply of used vehicles.
In addition to active management of the quality and age of our used vehicle inventory, we have attempted to increase the profitability of our used vehicle operations by participating in manufacturer certification programs where available. Manufacturer certified pre-owned vehicles typically sell at a premium compared to other used vehicles and are available only from franchised new vehicle dealerships. In some cases, certified pre-owned
vehicles are eligible for manufacturer support, such as subsidized finance rates and, in some cases, extension of the manufacturer warranty. Our certified pre-owned vehicle sales increased from 32.5% of total used retail sales in 2008 to 33.4% in 2009.
We sell replacement parts and provide maintenance and repair services at each of our franchised dealerships and provide collision repair services at the 24 collision centers we operate. Our parts and service business accounted for approximately 49.6% of our gross profit in 2009. We perform both warranty and non-warranty service work at our dealerships, primarily for the vehicle brand(s) sold at a particular dealership. Warranty work accounted for approximately 19.4% of the revenues from our parts and service business in 2009. Our parts and service departments also perform used vehicle reconditioning and new vehicle preparation services for which they realize a profit when a vehicle is sold to a retail customer.
The automotive repair industry is highly fragmented, with a significant number of independent maintenance and repair facilities in addition to those of the franchised dealerships. We believe, however, that the increasing complexity of new vehicles, especially in the area of electronics, has made it difficult for many independent repair shops to retain the expertise necessary to perform major or technical repairs. We have made investments in obtaining, training and retaining qualified technicians to work in our service and repair facilities and in state of the art diagnostic and repair equipment to be utilized by these technicians. Additionally, manufacturers permit warranty work to be performed only at franchised dealerships and there is a trend in the automobile industry towards longer new vehicle warranty periods. As a result, we believe an increasing percentage of all repair work will be performed at franchised dealerships that have the sophisticated equipment and skilled personnel necessary to perform repairs and warranty work on todays complex vehicles.
Our strategy to capture an increasing share of the parts and service work performed by franchised dealerships includes the following elements:
Revenues from our finance and insurance operations consist primarily of fees for arranging financing, vehicle service and insurance contracts in connection with the retail purchase of a new or used vehicle. Our finance and insurance business accounted for approximately 17.6% of our gross profit in 2009. We offer a wide variety of third-party finance, vehicle service and insurance products in a convenient manner and at competitive prices. To increase transparency to our customers, we offer all of our products on menus that display pricing and other information, allowing customers to choose the products that suit their needs.
Financing. We arrange third-party purchase and lease financing for our customers. In return, we receive a fee from the third-party finance company upon completion of the financing. These third-party finance companies include manufacturers captive finance companies, selected commercial banks and a variety of other third-parties, including credit unions and regional auto finance companies. The fees we receive are subject to chargeback, or repayment to the finance company, if a customer defaults or prepays the retail installment contract, typically during some limited time period at the beginning of the contract term. We have negotiated incentive programs with some finance companies pursuant to which we receive additional fees upon reaching a certain volume of business. Generally, we do not retain substantial credit risk after a customer has received financing, though we do retain limited credit risk in some circumstances.
Extended Warranty, Vehicle Service and Insurance Products. We offer our customers a variety of vehicle warranty and extended protection products in connection with purchases of new and used vehicles, including:
The products our dealerships currently offer are generally underwritten and administered by independent third parties, including the vehicle manufacturers captive finance subsidiaries. Under our arrangements with the providers of these products, we either sell these products on a straight commission basis, or we sell the product, recognize commission and participate in future underwriting profit, if any, pursuant to a retrospective commission arrangement. These commissions may be subject to chargeback, in full or in part, if the contract is terminated prior to its scheduled maturity.
Our dealerships finance their inventory purchases through the floorplan portion of our revolving credit facility and a separate floorplan credit facility arrangement with one of the manufacturers that we represent, Ford. Our revolving syndicated credit arrangement matures in March 2012 and provides a total of $1.35 billion of financing (the Revolving Credit Facility). We can expand the Revolving Credit Facility to its maximum commitment of $1.85 billion, subject to participating lender approval. The Revolving Credit Facility consists of two tranches: $1.0 billion for vehicle inventory financing (the Floorplan Line), and $350.0 million for acquisitions, capital expenditures and working capital (the Acquisition Line). We utilize the $1.0 billion tranche of our Floorplan Line to finance up to 70% of the value of our used vehicle inventory and up to 100% of the value of all new vehicle inventory, other than new vehicles produced by Ford and some of their affiliates. The capacity under the Acquisition Line can be re-designated within the overall $1.35 billion commitment. However, restrictions on the availability of funds under the Acquisition Line are governed by debt covenants in existence under the Revolving Credit Facility. Additionally, our floorplan arrangement with Ford Motor Credit Company provides $150.0 million of floorplan financing capacity (the FMCC Facility). We use the funds available under this arrangement to exclusively finance our inventories of new Ford vehicles produced by the lenders manufacturer affiliate. The FMCC Facility is an
arrangement that may be cancelled with 30 days notice by either party. During June 2009, we amended our FMCC Facility to reduce the available floorplan financing available from $300.0 million to $150.0 million, with no change to any other original terms or pricing related to the facility. Should the FMCC facility no longer be available to us for financing of our new Ford inventory, we could utilize the available capacity under our Floorplan Line to finance this inventory. In addition to the FMCC Facility, we finance certain rental vehicles through separate arrangements with the respective automobile manufacturers. We also utilize a credit facility with BMW Financial Services for the financing of new, used and rental inventories associated with our U.K. operations. From 2006 through the early part of 2007, we had a similar arrangement with DaimlerChrysler Services North America LLC (or DaimlerChrysler) to exclusively finance our inventories of new DaimlerChrysler vehicles produced by the lenders manufacturer affiliate (or DaimlerChrysler Facility) but, on February 28, 2007, the DaimlerChrysler Facility matured and was not renewed. We used borrowings under our Revolving Credit Facility to pay off the outstanding balance under the DaimlerChrysler Facility at that time. Most manufacturers offer interest assistance to offset a portion of floorplan interest charges incurred in connection with holding new vehicle inventory purchases, which we recognize as a reduction of cost of new vehicle sales.
We pursue an acquisition and divestiture program focused on the following objectives:
Since our inception, we have grown our business primarily through acquisitions. Over the five-year period from January 1, 2005 through December 31, 2009, we:
Acquisition strategy. We seek to acquire large, profitable, well-established dealerships that are leaders in their markets to:
We typically pursue dealerships with superior operational management, whom we seek to retain. By retaining existing personnel who have experience and in-depth knowledge of their local market, we believe that we can mitigate the risks involved with employing and training new and untested personnel. In addition, our acquisition strategy includes the purchase of the related real estate to provide maximum operating flexibility.
We continue to focus on the acquisition of dealerships or groups of dealerships that offer opportunities for higher returns, particularly import and luxury brands, which provide growth opportunities for our parts and service operations, and will strengthen our operations in geographic regions in which we currently operate with attractive long-term economic prospects.
Recent Acquisitions. In 2009, we acquired two luxury, two import and one domestic franchise with expected annual revenues of $108.4 million. The new franchises included: (i) a BMW dealership in Mobile, Alabama, (ii) a Hyundai franchise in Houston, Texas, (iii) a Hyundai franchise in New Orleans, Louisiana,
and (iv) a Lincoln and a Mercury franchise in Pembroke Pines, Florida that were added to our existing Ford dealership.
Divestiture Strategy. We continually review our investments in dealership portfolio for disposition opportunities, based upon a number of criteria, including:
While it is our desire to only acquire profitable, well-established dealerships, at times we have been requested, in connection with the acquisition of a particular dealership group, to acquire dealerships that do not fit our acquisition strategy. We acquire such dealerships with the understanding that we may need to divest of them at some future time. The costs associated with such divestitures are included in our analysis of whether we acquire all dealerships in the same acquisition. Additionally, we may acquire a dealership whose profitability is marginal, but which we believe can be increased through various factors, such as: (i) change in management, (ii) increase or improvement in facility operations, (iii) relocation of facility based on demographic changes, (iv) reduction in costs, or (v) sales training. If, after a period of time, a dealerships profitability does not positively respond, management will make the decision to sell the dealership to a third party, or, in a rare case, surrender the franchise back to the manufacturer. Management constantly monitors the performance of all of our dealerships, and routinely assesses the need for divestiture. In connection with divestitures, we are sometimes required to incur additional charges associated with lease terminations or the impairment of long-lived assets. In 2009, we continued disposing of under-performing dealerships and have again made this a focus for 2010, as we continue to rationalize our dealership portfolio and increase the overall profitability of our operations. We own the real estate associated with the operation of approximately 30.6% of our dealerships. As such, in conjunction with the disposition of certain of our dealerships, we may also dispose of the associated real estate.
Recent Dispositions. During 2009, we sold seven franchises and terminated one other with annual revenues of $126.2 million.
We operate in a highly competitive industry. In each of our markets, consumers have a number of choices in deciding where to purchase a new or used vehicle and how the purchase will be financed. Consumers also have options for the purchase of related parts and accessories, as well as the service maintenance and repair of vehicles. According to industry sources, there are approximately 17,306 franchised automobile dealerships and approximately 36,418 independent used vehicle dealers in the retail automotive industry as of December 31, 2009.
Our competitive success depends, in part, on national and regional automobile-buying trends, local and regional economic factors and other regional competitive pressures. Conditions and competitive pressures affecting the markets in which we operate, or in any new markets we enter, could adversely affect us, although the retail automobile industry as a whole might not be affected. Some of our competitors may have greater financial, marketing and personnel resources and lower overhead and sales costs than we do. We cannot guarantee that our operating performance and our acquisition or disposition strategies will be more effective than the strategies of our competitors.
New and Used Vehicles. We believe the principal competitive factors in the automotive retailing business are location, suitability of the facility, on-site management, the suitability of a franchise to the market in which it is located, service, price and selection. In the new vehicle market, our dealerships compete with other franchised dealerships in their market areas, as well as auto brokers, leasing companies, and Internet companies that provide referrals to, or broker vehicle sales with, other dealerships or customers. We are subject to competition from dealers that sell the same brands of new vehicles that we sell and from dealers that sell other brands of new vehicles that we
do not sell in a particular market. Our new vehicle dealer competitors also have franchise agreements with the various vehicle manufacturers and, as such, generally have access to new vehicles on the same terms as we do. We do not have any cost advantage in purchasing new vehicles from vehicle manufacturers, and our franchise agreements do not grant us the exclusive right to sell a manufacturers product within a given geographic area.
In the used vehicle market, our dealerships compete both in their local market and nationally, including over the Internet, with other franchised dealers, large multi-location used vehicle retailers, local independent used vehicle dealers, automobile rental agencies and private parties for the supply and resale of used vehicles.
Parts and Service. In the parts and service market, our dealerships compete with other franchised dealers to perform warranty repairs and sell factory replacement parts. Our dealerships also compete with other automobile dealers, franchised and independent service center chains, and independent repair shops for non-warranty repair and maintenance business. In addition, our dealerships sell replacement and aftermarket parts both locally and nationally over the Internet in competition with franchised and independent retail and wholesale parts outlets. We believe the principal competitive factors in the parts and service business are the quality of customer service, the use of factory-approved replacement parts, familiarity with a manufacturers brands and models, convenience, access to technology required for certain repairs and services (e.g., software patches, diagnostic equipment, etc.), location, price, the competence of technicians and the availability of training programs to enhance such expertise. A number of regional or national chains offer selected parts and services at prices that may be lower than ours.
Finance and Insurance. We face competition in arranging financing for our customers vehicle purchases from a broad range of financial institutions. Many financial institutions now offer finance and insurance products over the Internet, which may reduce our profits from the sale of these products. We believe the principal competitive factors in the finance and insurance business are convenience, interest rates, product availability, product knowledge and flexibility in contract length.
Acquisitions. We compete with other national dealer groups and individual investors for acquisitions. Increased competition, especially in certain of the luxury and import brands, may raise the cost of acquisitions. We cannot guarantee that there will be sufficient opportunities to complete desired acquisitions, nor are we able to guarantee that we will be able to complete acquisitions on terms acceptable to us.
As of December 31, 2009, our total outstanding indebtedness and lease and other obligations were $1,615.6 million, including the following:
As of December 31, 2009, we had the following amounts available for additional borrowings under our various credit facilities:
In addition, the indentures relating to our 8.25% Notes, 2.25% Notes and other debt instruments allow us to incur additional indebtedness and enter into additional operating leases, subject to certain conditions.
From time to time, our Board of Directors authorizes us to repurchase shares of our common stock, subject to the restrictions of various debt agreements and our judgment. In August 2008, our Board of Directors authorized us to repurchase a number of shares equivalent to the shares issued pursuant to our employee stock purchase plan on a quarterly basis. All funds for these repurchases came from employee contributions during 2008. Also in August 2008, our Board of Directors authorized the repurchase of up to $20.0 million of additional common shares. Pursuant to this authorization, a total of 37,300 shares were repurchased during 2008, at an average price of $20.76 per share, or $0.8 million. Pursuant to this latter authorization, no shares were repurchased during 2009.
Future repurchases are subject to the discretion of our Board of Directors after considering our results of operations, financial condition, cash flows, capital requirements, existing debt covenants, outlook for our business, general business conditions and other factors.
On February 19, 2009, our Board of Directors indefinitely suspended the payment of dividends due to economic uncertainty. The payment of dividends in the future is subject to the discretion of our Board of Directors, after considering our results of operations, financial condition, cash flows, capital requirements, outlook for our business, general business conditions and other factors. See Note 15 to our Consolidated Financial Statements for a description of restrictions on the payment of dividends.
Each of our dealerships operates under a franchise agreement with a vehicle manufacturer (or authorized distributor). The franchise agreements grant the franchised automobile dealership a non-exclusive right to sell the manufacturers or distributors brand of vehicles and offer related parts and service within a specified market area. These franchise agreements grant our dealerships the right to use the manufacturers or distributors trademarks in connection with their operations, and impose numerous operational requirements and restrictions relating to, among other things:
Our dealerships franchise agreements are for various terms, ranging from one year to indefinite. Each of our franchise agreements may be terminated or not renewed by the manufacturer for a variety of reasons, including unapproved changes of ownership or management and performance deficiencies in such areas as sales volume, sales effectiveness and customer satisfaction. In most cases, manufacturers have renewed the franchises upon expiration so long as the dealership is in compliance with the terms of the agreement. From time to time, certain manufacturers may assert sales and customer satisfaction performance deficiencies under the terms of our framework and franchise agreements at a limited number of our dealerships. We work with these manufacturers to address any performance issues. In general, the states in which we operate have automotive dealership franchise laws that provide that, notwithstanding the terms of any franchise agreement, it is unlawful for a manufacturer to terminate or not renew a franchise unless good cause exists. It generally is difficult for a manufacturer to terminate, or not renew, a franchise under these laws, which were designed to protect dealers. However, federal law, including any federal bankruptcy law or any federal law that may be passed to address the current economic crisis, may preempt state law and allow manufacturers greater freedom to terminate or not renew franchises. The current economic recession has caused domestic manufacturers to critically evaluate their respective dealer networks. Subject to the current economic factors, we generally expect our franchise agreements to survive for the foreseeable future and, when the agreements do not have indefinite terms, anticipate routine renewals of the agreements without substantial cost or modification.
Our dealership service departments perform vehicle repairs and service for customers under manufacturer warranties. We are reimbursed for the repairs and service directly from the manufacturer. Some manufacturers offer rebates to new vehicle customers that we are required, under specific program rules, to adequately document, support and typically are responsible for collecting. In addition, from time to time, some manufacturers provide us with incentives to sell certain models and levels of inventory over designated periods of time. Under the terms of our dealership franchise agreements, the respective manufacturers are able to perform warranty, incentive and rebate audits and charge us back for unsupported or non-qualifying warranty repairs, rebates or incentives.
In addition to the individual dealership franchise agreements discussed above, we have entered into framework agreements with most major vehicle manufacturers and distributors. These agreements impose a number of restrictions on our operations, including our ability to make acquisitions and obtain financing, and our management. These agreements also impose change of control provisions related to the ownership of our common stock. For a discussion of these restrictions and the risks related to our relationships with vehicle manufacturers, please read Risk Factors.
The following table sets forth the percentage of our new vehicle retail unit sales attributable to the manufacturers that accounted for approximately 10% or more of our new vehicle retail unit sales:
We operate in a highly regulated industry. A number of state and federal laws and regulations affect our business and the business of our manufacturers. In every state in which we operate, we must obtain various licenses in order to operate our businesses, including dealer, sales and finance, and insurance licenses issued by state
regulatory authorities. Numerous laws and regulations govern our conduct of business, including those relating to our sales, operations, financing, insurance, advertising and employment practices. These laws and regulations include state franchise laws and regulations, consumer protection laws, and other extensive laws and regulations applicable to new and used motor vehicle dealers, as well as a variety of other laws and regulations. These laws also include federal and state wage-hour, anti-discrimination and other employment practices laws.
Our financing activities with customers are subject to federal truth-in-lending, consumer leasing and equal credit opportunity laws and regulations, as well as state and local motor vehicle finance laws, installment finance laws, usury laws and other installment sales laws and regulations. Some states regulate finance fees and charges that may be paid as a result of vehicle sales. Claims arising out of actual or alleged violations of law may be asserted against us, or our dealerships, by individuals or governmental entities and may expose us to significant damages or other penalties, including revocation or suspension of our licenses to conduct dealership operations and fines.
Our operations are subject to the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards promulgated by the United States Department of Transportation and the rules and regulations of various state motor vehicle regulatory agencies. The imported automobiles we purchase are subject to United States customs duties, and in the ordinary course of our business we may, from time to time, be subject to claims for duties, penalties, liquidated damages or other charges.
Our operations are subject to consumer protection laws known as Lemon Laws. These laws typically require a manufacturer or dealer to replace a new vehicle or accept it for a full refund within one year after initial purchase if the vehicle does not conform to the manufacturers express warranties and the dealer or manufacturer, after a reasonable number of attempts, is unable to correct or repair the defect. Federal laws require various written disclosures to be provided on new vehicles, including mileage and pricing information. We are aware that several states are considering enacting consumer bill-of-rights statutes to provide further protection to the consumer which could affect our profitability in such states.
Our operations involve the use, handling, storage and contracting for recycling and/or disposal of materials such as motor oil and filters, transmission fluids, antifreeze, refrigerants, paints, thinners, batteries, cleaning products, lubricants, degreasing agents, tires and fuel. Consequently, our business is subject to a complex variety of federal, state and local laws and regulations governing management and disposal of materials and wastes, protection of the environment and public health and safety. These laws and regulations affect many aspects of our operations, such as requiring the acquisition of permits or other governmental approvals to conduct regulated activities, restricting the manner in which we handle, recycle and dispose of our wastes, incurring capital expenditures to construct, maintain and upgrade equipment and facilities, and requiring remedial actions to mitigate pollution caused by our operations or attributable to former operations. Failure to comply with these laws and regulations may result in the assessment of administrative, civil and criminal penalties, imposition of remedial obligations, and issuance of injunctions delaying, restricting or prohibiting some or all of our operations. We may not be able to recover some or any of these costs from insurance.
Most of our dealerships utilize aboveground storage tanks and, to a lesser extent, underground storage tanks primarily for petroleum-based products. Storage tanks are subject to testing, containment, upgrading and removal requirements under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, as amended, also known as RCRA, and its state law counterparts. RCRA imposes requirements relating to the handling and disposal of hazardous wastes and non-hazardous solid wastes and requires us to comply with stringent and costly requirements in connection with our storage and recycling or disposal of the various used fluids, paints, batteries, tires and fuels generated by our operations. Clean-up or other remedial action may be necessary in the event of leaks or other unauthorized discharges from storage tanks or other equipment operated by us. In addition, water quality protection programs under the federal Water Pollution Control Act, as amended, (commonly known as the Clean Water Act) and comparable state and local programs govern certain wastewater and stormwater discharges from our operations, which discharges may require permitting. Similarly, certain sources of air emissions from our operations may be subject to permitting, pursuant to the federal Clean Air Act, as amended, and related state and local laws. Certain health and safety standards promulgated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the United States
Department of Labor and related state agencies are also applicable to protection of the health and safety of our employees.
A very few of our dealerships are parties to proceedings under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, as amended, or CERCLA, or comparable state laws typically in connection with materials that were sent offsite to former recycling, treatment and/or disposal facilities owned and operated by independent businesses. CERCLA and comparable state laws impose strict and, under certain circumstances, joint and several liability without regard to fault or the legality of the original conduct on certain classes of persons, referred to as potentially responsible parties, who are alleged to have released hazardous substances into the environment. Under CERCLA, these potentially responsible parties may be responsible for the costs of cleaning up the released hazardous substances, for damages to natural resources, and for the costs of certain health studies and it is not uncommon for third parties to file claims for personal injury and property damage allegedly caused by the release of the hazardous substances into the environment. We do not believe the proceedings in which a few of our dealerships are currently involved are material to our results of operations or financial condition.
We generally conduct environmental studies on dealerships to be acquired regardless of whether we are leasing or acquiring in fee the underlying real property, and as necessary, implement environmental management practices or remedial activities to reduce the risk of noncompliance with environmental laws and regulations. Nevertheless, we currently own or lease, and in connection with our acquisition program anticipate in the future owning or leasing, properties that in some instances have been used for auto retailing and servicing for many years. These laws apply regardless of whether we lease or purchase the land and facilities. Although we have utilized operating and disposal practices that were standard in the industry at the time, a risk exists that petroleum products or wastes such as new and used motor oil, transmission fluids, antifreeze, lubricants, solvents and motor fuels could have been spilled or released on or under the properties owned or leased by us or on or under other locations where such materials were taken for recycling or disposal. Further, we believe that structures found on some of these properties may contain suspect asbestos-containing materials, albeit in an undisturbed condition. In addition, many of these properties have been operated by third parties whose use, handling and disposal of such petroleum products or wastes were not under our control. These properties and the materials disposed or released on them may be subject to CERCLA, RCRA and analogous state laws, pursuant to which we could be required to remove or remediate previously disposed wastes or property contamination or to perform remedial activities to prevent future contamination.
Our operations expose us to the risk of various liabilities, including:
The automotive retailing business is also subject to substantial risk of property loss as a result of the significant concentration of property values at dealership locations. Under self-insurance programs, we retain various levels of aggregate loss limits, per claim deductibles and claims handling expenses as part of our various insurance programs, including property and casualty and employee medical benefits. In certain cases, we insure costs in excess of our retained risk per claim under various contracts with third-party insurance carriers. Actuarial estimates for the portion of claims not covered by insurance are based on historical claims experience, adjusted for current trends and changes in claims-handling procedures. Risk retention levels may change in the future as a result of changes in the insurance market or other factors affecting the economics of our insurance programs. Although we have, subject to certain limitations and exclusions, substantial insurance, we cannot assure that we will not be exposed to uninsured or underinsured losses that could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations or cash flows.
We make provisions for retained losses and deductibles by reflecting charges to expense based upon periodic evaluations of the estimated ultimate liabilities on reported and unreported claims. The insurance companies that underwrite our insurance require that we secure certain of our obligations for self-insured exposures with collateral. Our collateral requirements are set by the insurance companies and, to date, have been satisfied by posting surety
bonds, letters of credit and/or cash deposits. Our collateral requirements may change from time to time based on, among other things, our total insured exposure and the related self-insured retention assumed under the policies.
We believe our relationships with our employees are favorable. As of December 31, 2009, we employed 6,990 (Regular Full-Time, Regular Part-Time and Temporary) people, of whom:
75 of our employees in one region are represented by a labor union. Because of our dependence on vehicle manufacturers, we may be affected by labor strikes, work slowdowns and walkouts at vehicle manufacturing facilities. Additionally, labor strikes, work slowdowns and walkouts at businesses participating in the distribution of manufacturers products may also affect us.
We generally experience higher volumes of vehicle sales and service in the second and third calendar quarters of each year. This seasonality is generally attributable to consumer buying trends and the timing of manufacturer new vehicle model introductions. In addition, in some regions of the U.S., vehicle purchases decline during the winter months due to inclement weather. As a result, our revenues, cash flows and operating income are typically lower in the first and fourth quarters and higher in the second and third quarters. Other factors unrelated to seasonality, such as changes in economic condition and manufacturer incentive programs, may exaggerate seasonal or cause counter-seasonal fluctuations in our revenues and operating income.
Our executive officers serve at the pleasure of our Board of Directors and are subject to annual appointment by our Board of Directors at its first meeting following each annual meeting of stockholders.
The following table sets forth certain information as of the date of this Annual Report on Form 10-K regarding our current executive officers:
Mr. Hesterberg has served as our President and Chief Executive Officer and as a director since April 9, 2005. Prior to joining us, Mr. Hesterberg served as Group Vice President, North America Marketing, Sales and Service for Ford Motor Company since October 2004. From July 1999 to September 2004, he served as Vice President, Marketing, Sales and Service for Ford of Europe. Mr. Hesterberg has also served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Gulf States Toyota, and held various senior sales, marketing, general management, and parts and service positions with Nissan Motor Corporation in U.S.A. and Nissan Europe. Mr. Hesterberg received his BA in Psychology at Davidson College in 1975 and his MBA from Xavier University in 1978.
Mr. Rickel was appointed Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in December 2005. From 1984 until joining us, Mr. Rickel held a number of executive and managerial positions of increasing responsibility with Ford Motor Company. He most recently served as controller of Ford Americas, where he was responsible for the financial management of Fords western hemisphere automotive operations. Immediately prior to that, he was chief financial officer of Ford Europe, where he oversaw all accounting, financial planning, information services, tax and investor relations activities. From 2002 to 2004, Mr. Rickel was also chairman of the board of Ford Russia and a member of the board and the audit committee of Ford Otosan, a publicly traded automotive company located in Turkey and owned 41% by Ford Motor Company. Mr. Rickel received his BSBA in 1982 and MBA in 1984 from The Ohio State University.
Mark J. Iuppenlatz
Mr. Iuppenlatz was appointed Vice President, Corporate Development effective January 1, 2010. Mr. Iuppenlatz brings more than 20 years experience in acquisition and real estate to the position, having served in a similar capacity from 1999 to 2007 at Sonic Automotive. Mr. Iuppenlatz is responsible for all dealership and real estate acquisitions along with real estate and construction management. Mr. Iuppenlatz previously served as managing partner of Animas Valley Land & Water Co., a diversified real estate development group. Mr. Iuppenlatz received his BBA in Marketing from Michigan State University in 1981.
Mr. Burman was appointed Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary in December 2006. Prior to joining us, Mr. Burman was a partner and head of the corporate and securities practice in the Houston office of Epstein Becker Green Wickliff & Hall, P.C. From September 1995 until September 2005, Mr. Burman served as the head of the corporate and securities practice of Fant & Burman, L.L.P. in Houston, Texas. Mr. Burman graduated from the University of South Florida in 1980 and received his J.D. from South Texas College of Law in 1983.
Mr. OHara has served as Vice President, Human Resources since February 2000. From 1997 until joining Group 1, Mr. OHara was Corporate Manager of Organizational Development at Valero Energy Corporation, an integrated refining and marketing company. Prior to joining Valero, Mr. OHara served for a number of years as Vice President of Administration and Human Resources at Gulf States Toyota, an independent national distributor of new Toyota vehicles, parts and accessories. Mr. OHara is a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR). Mr. OHara received his BS in Marketing from Florida State University in 1978 and his MBA in 1991 from the University of St. Thomas.
Our Internet address is www.group1auto.com. We make the following information available free of charge on our Internet Web site:
We make our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) available on our Web site as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file such material with, or furnish such material to, the SEC. We make our SEC filings available via a link to our filings on the SECs Web site. The above information is available in print to anyone who requests it free of charge. In addition, the public may read and copy any materials we file with the SEC at the SECs Public Reference Room at 100 F. Street, N.E., Washington, DC 20549 and may obtain information on the operation of the Public Reference Room by calling the SEC at 1-800-SEC-0330.
We will timely provide the annual certification of our Chief Executive Officer to the New York Stock Exchange. We filed last years certification in June 2009. In addition, our Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer each have signed and filed the certifications under Section 302 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 with this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
The current economic slowdown has had and could continue to have a material adverse effect on our business, revenues and profitability.
The automotive retail industry, and especially new vehicle unit sales, is influenced by general economic conditions, particularly consumer confidence, the level of personal discretionary spending, interest rates, fuel prices, unemployment rates and credit availability. During economic downturns, retail new vehicle sales typically experience periods of decline characterized by oversupply and weak demand. The recent general economic slowdown, as well as tightening of the credit markets and credit standards, volatility in consumer preference around fuel-efficient vehicles in response to volatile fuel prices and concern about domestic manufacturer viability, has resulted in a difficult business environment. And, as a result, the automotive retail industry has experienced a significant decline in vehicle sales and margins. This decline may continue and sales may stay depressed for an unknown period of time. Such declines have had, and any further declines or changes of this type could have, a material adverse effect on our business, revenues, cash flows and profitability.
Fuel prices have remained volatile and may continue to affect consumer preferences in connection with the purchase of our vehicles. Rising fuel prices may make consumers less likely to purchase larger, more expensive vehicles, such as sports utility vehicles or luxury automobiles and more likely to purchase smaller, less expensive and more fuel efficient vehicles. Further increases or sharp declines in fuel prices could have a material adverse effect on our business, revenues, cash flows and profitability.
In addition, local economic, competitive and other conditions affect the performance of our dealerships. Our revenues, cash flows and profitability depend substantially on general economic conditions and spending habits in those regions of the U.S. where we maintain most of our operations.
Our results of operations and financial condition have been and could continue to be adversely affected by the conditions in the credit markets in the U.S.
The recent turmoil in the credit markets has resulted in tighter credit conditions and has adversely impacted our business. In the automotive finance market, tight credit conditions have resulted in a decrease in the availability of automotive loans and leases and have led to more stringent lending conditions. As a result, our new and used vehicle sales and margins have been adversely impacted. If the unfavorable economic conditions continue and the availability of automotive loans and leases remains limited, we anticipate that our vehicle sales and margins will continue to be adversely impacted.
A significant portion of vehicle buyers, particularly in the used car market, finance their vehicle purchases. Sub-prime finance companies have historically provided financing for consumers who, for a variety of reasons, including poor credit histories and lack of a down payment, do not have access to more traditional finance sources. Recent economic developments have caused most sub-prime finance companies to tighten their credit standards and this reduction in available credit has adversely affected our used vehicle sales and margins. If sub-prime finance
companies apply higher standards, if there is any further tightening of credit standards used by sub-prime finance companies, or if there is additional decline in the overall availability of credit in the sub-prime lending market, the ability of these consumers to purchase vehicles could be limited, which could have a material adverse effect on our used car business, revenues, cash flows and profitability.
Market conditions could also make it more difficult for us to raise additional capital or obtain additional financing to fund capital expenditure projects or acquisitions. We cannot be certain that additional funds will be available if needed and to the extent required or, if available, on acceptable terms. If we cannot raise necessary additional funds on acceptable terms, there could be an adverse impact on our business and operations. We also may not be able to fund expansion, take advantage of future opportunities or respond to competitive pressures or unanticipated requirements.
Our success depends upon the continued viability and overall success of a limited number of manufacturers.
We are subject to a concentration of risk in the event of financial distress, merger, sale or bankruptcy, including potential liquidation, of a major vehicle manufacturer. Toyota/Lexus/Scion, Nissan/Infiniti, Honda/Acura, Ford, BMW/Mini, Mercedes-Benz, Chrysler and General Motors dealerships represented approximately 95.2% of our total new vehicle retail units sold in 2009. In particular, sales of Toyota/Lexus/Scion and Nissan/Infiniti new vehicles represented 49.4% of our new vehicle unit sales in 2009. The success of our dealerships is dependent on vehicle manufacturers in several key respects. First, we rely exclusively on the various vehicle manufacturers for our new vehicle inventory. Our ability to sell new vehicles is dependent on a vehicle manufacturers ability to produce and allocate to our dealerships an attractive, high-quality, and desirable product mix at the right time in order to satisfy customer demand. Second, manufacturers generally support their franchisees by providing direct financial assistance in various areas, including, among others, floorplan assistance and advertising assistance. Third, manufacturers provide product warranties and, in some cases, service contracts, to customers. Our dealerships perform warranty and service contract work for vehicles under manufacturer product warranties and service contracts, and direct bill the manufacturer as opposed to invoicing the customer. At any particular time, we have significant receivables from manufacturers for warranty and service work performed for customers, as well as for vehicle incentives. In addition, we rely on manufacturers to varying extents for original equipment manufactured replacement parts, training, product brochures and point of sale materials, and other items for our dealerships.
Vehicle manufacturers may be adversely impacted by economic downturns or recessions, significant declines in the sales of their new vehicles, increases in interest rates, adverse fluctuations in currency exchange rates, declines in their credit ratings, reductions in access to capital or credit labor strikes or similar disruptions (including within their major suppliers), supply shortages or rising raw material costs, rising employee benefit costs, adverse publicity that may reduce consumer demand for their products (including due to bankruptcy), product defects, vehicle recall campaigns, litigation, poor product mix or unappealing vehicle design, governmental laws and regulations, or other adverse events. These and other risks could materially adversely affect any manufacturer and impact its ability to profitably design, market, produce or distribute new vehicles, which in turn could materially adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial condition, stockholders equity, cash flows and prospects. In 2008 and 2009, vehicle manufacturers, in particular domestic manufacturers, were adversely impacted by the unfavorable economic conditions in the U.S.
In the event or threat of a bankruptcy by a vehicle manufacturer, among other things: (1) the manufacturer could attempt to terminate all or certain of our franchises, and we may not receive adequate compensation for them, (2) we may not be able to collect some or all of our significant receivables that are due from such manufacturer and we may be subject to preference claims relating to payments made by such manufacturer prior to bankruptcy, (3) we may not be able to obtain financing for our new vehicle inventory, or arrange financing for our customers for their vehicle purchases and leases, with such manufacturers captive finance subsidiary, which may cause us to finance our new vehicle inventory, and arrange financing for our customers, with alternate finance sources on less favorable terms, and (4) consumer demand for such manufacturers products could be materially adversely affected and could impact the value of our inventory. These events may result in a partial or complete write-down of our goodwill and/or intangible franchise rights with respect to any terminated franchises and cause us to incur impairment
charges related to operating leases and/or receivables due from such manufacturers or to record allowances against the value of our new and used inventory.
If we fail to obtain a desirable mix of popular new vehicles from manufacturers our profitability can be affected.
We depend on the manufacturers to provide us with a desirable mix of new vehicles. The most popular vehicles usually produce the highest profit margins and are frequently difficult to obtain from the manufacturers. If we cannot obtain sufficient quantities of the most popular models, our profitability may be adversely affected. Sales of less desirable models may reduce our profit margins. Several manufacturers generally allocate their vehicles among their franchised dealerships based on the sales history of each dealership. If our dealerships experience prolonged sales slumps relative to our competitors, these manufacturers may cut back their allotments of popular vehicles to our dealerships and new vehicle sales and profits may decline. Similarly, the delivery of vehicles, particularly newer, more popular vehicles, from manufacturers at a time later than scheduled could lead to reduced sales during those periods.
Restrictions in our agreements with manufacturers could negatively impact our ability to obtain certain types of financings.
Provisions in our agreements with our manufacturers may, in the future, restrict our ability to obtain certain types of financing. A number of our manufacturers prohibit pledging the stock of their franchised dealerships. For example, our agreement with General Motors contains provisions prohibiting pledging the stock of our General Motors franchised dealerships. Our agreement with Ford permits us to pledge our Ford franchised dealerships stock and assets, but only for Ford dealership-related debt. Moreover, our Ford agreement permits our Ford franchised dealerships to guarantee, and to use Ford franchised dealership assets to secure our debt, but only for Ford dealership-related debt. Ford waived that requirement with respect to our March 1999 and August 2003 senior subordinated notes offerings and the subsidiary guarantees of those notes. Certain of our manufacturers require us to meet certain financial ratios. Our failure to comply with these ratios gives the manufacturers the right to reject proposed acquisitions, and may give them the right to purchase their franchises for fair value.
If manufacturers discontinue or change sales incentives, warranties and other promotional programs, our results of operations may be materially adversely affected.
We depend on our manufacturers for sales incentives, warranties and other programs that are intended to promote dealership sales or support dealership profitability. Manufacturers historically have made many changes to their incentive programs during each year. Some of the key incentive programs include:
A discontinuation or change in our manufacturers incentive programs could adversely affect our business. Moreover, some manufacturers use a dealerships CSI scores as a factor governing participation in incentive programs. Failure to comply with the CSI standards could adversely affect our participation in dealership incentive programs, which could have a material adverse effect on us.
If we fail to obtain renewals of one or more of our franchise agreements on favorable terms or substantial franchises are terminated, our operations may be significantly impaired.
Each of our dealerships operates under a franchise agreement with one of our manufacturers (or authorized distributors). Without a franchise agreement, we cannot obtain new vehicles from a manufacturer, receive floorplan and advertising assistance, access the manufacturers certified pre-owned programs, perform warranty-related
services or purchase parts at manufacturer pricing. As a result, we are significantly dependent on our relationships with these manufacturers, which exercise a great degree of influence over our operations through the franchise agreements. Each of our franchise agreements may be terminated or not renewed by the manufacturer for a variety of reasons, including any unapproved changes of ownership or management and other material breaches of the franchise agreements. Manufacturers may also have a right of first refusal if we seek to sell dealerships. We cannot guarantee all of our franchise agreements will be renewed or that the terms of the renewals will be as favorable to us as our current agreements. In addition, actions taken by manufacturers to exploit their bargaining position in negotiating the terms of renewals of franchise agreements could also have a material adverse effect on our revenues and profitability. Our results of operations may be materially and adversely affected to the extent that our franchise rights become compromised or our operations restricted due to the terms of our franchise agreements or if we lose substantial franchises.
Our franchise agreements do not give us the exclusive right to sell a manufacturers product within a given geographic area. Subject to state laws that are generally designed to protect dealers, a manufacturer may grant another dealer a franchise to start a new dealership near one of our locations, or an existing dealership may move its dealership to a location that would more directly compete against us. The location of new dealerships near our existing dealerships could materially adversely affect our operations and reduce the profitability of our existing dealerships.
If state dealer laws are repealed or weakened, our dealerships will be more susceptible to termination, non-renewal or renegotiation of their franchise agreements.
State dealer laws generally provide that a manufacturer may not terminate or refuse to renew a franchise agreement unless it has first provided the dealer with written notice setting forth good cause and stating the grounds for termination or nonrenewal. Some state dealer laws allow dealers to file protests or petitions or attempt to comply with the manufacturers criteria within the notice period to avoid the termination or nonrenewal. Though unsuccessful to date, manufacturers lobbying efforts may lead to the repeal or revision of state dealer laws. If dealer laws are repealed in the states in which we operate, manufacturers may be able to terminate our franchises without providing advance notice, an opportunity to cure or a showing of good cause. Without the protection of state dealer laws, it may also be more difficult for our dealers to renew their franchise agreements upon expiration.
In addition, these state dealer laws restrict the ability of automobile manufacturers to directly enter the retail market in the future. If manufacturers obtain the ability to directly retail vehicles and do so in our markets, such competition could have a material adverse effect on us.
Growth in our revenues and earnings will be impacted by our ability to acquire and successfully integrate and operate dealerships.
Growth in our revenues and earnings depends substantially on our ability to acquire and successfully integrate and operate dealerships. We cannot guarantee that we will be able to identify and acquire dealerships in the future. In addition, we cannot guarantee that any acquisitions will be successful or on terms and conditions consistent with past acquisitions. Restrictions by our manufacturers, as well as covenants contained in our debt instruments, may directly or indirectly limit our ability to acquire additional dealerships. In addition, increased competition for acquisitions may develop, which could result in fewer acquisition opportunities available to us and/or higher acquisition prices. And, some of our competitors may have greater financial resources than us.
We will continue to need substantial capital in order to acquire additional automobile dealerships. In the past, we have financed these acquisitions with a combination of cash flow from operations, proceeds from borrowings under our credit facilities, bond issuances, stock offerings, and the issuance of our common stock to the sellers of the acquired dealerships.
We currently intend to finance future acquisitions by using cash generated from operations, borrowings under our acquisition lines, proceeds from debt and/or equity offerings and, in rare situations, issuing shares of our common stock as partial consideration for acquired dealerships. The use of common stock as consideration for acquisitions will depend on three factors: (1) the market value of our common stock at the time of the acquisition, (2) the willingness of potential acquisition candidates to accept common stock as part of the consideration for the
sale of their businesses, and (3) our determination of what is in our best interests. If potential acquisition candidates are unwilling to accept our common stock, we will rely solely on available cash or proceeds from debt or equity financings, which could adversely affect our acquisition program. Accordingly, our ability to make acquisitions could be adversely affected if the price of our common stock is depressed or if our access to capital is limited.
In addition, managing and integrating additional dealerships into our existing mix of dealerships may result in substantial costs, diversion of our managements attention, delays, or other operational or financial problems. Acquisitions involve a number of special risks, including, among other things:
All of these risks could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, cash flows and results of operations. Although we conduct what we believe to be a prudent level of investigation regarding the operating condition of the businesses we purchase in light of the circumstances of each transaction, an unavoidable level of risk remains regarding the actual operating condition of these businesses.
We must obtain the consent of the manufacturer prior to the acquisition of any of its dealership franchises. Delays in obtaining, or failing to obtain, manufacturer approvals for dealership acquisitions could adversely affect our acquisition program. Obtaining the consent of a manufacturer for the acquisition of a dealership could take a significant amount of time or might be rejected entirely. In determining whether to approve an acquisition, manufacturers may consider many factors, including the moral character and business experience of the dealership principals and the financial condition, ownership structure, customer satisfaction index scores and other performance measures of our dealerships. Also, our manufacturers attempt to measure customers satisfaction with automobile dealerships through systems generally known as the customer satisfaction index or CSI. Manufacturers may use these performance indicators, as well as sales performance numbers, as conditions for certain payments and as factors in evaluating applications for additional acquisitions. The manufacturers have modified the components of their CSI scores from time to time in the past, and they may replace them with different systems at any time. In unusual cases where performance indicators, such as the ones described above, are not met to the satisfaction of the manufacturer, certain manufacturers may either limit our ability to acquire additional dealerships or require the disposal of existing dealerships or both. From time to time, we have not met all of the manufacturers requirements to make acquisitions. To date, there have been no identified acquisition opportunities that have been denied by any manufacturer. However, we cannot be assured that all of our proposed future acquisitions will be approved. In the event this was to occur, this could adversely affect our acquisition strategy.
In addition, a manufacturer may limit the number of its dealerships that we may own or the number that we may own in a particular geographic area. If we reach a limitation imposed by a manufacturer for a particular geographic market, we will be unable to make additional acquisitions of that manufacturers franchises in that market, which could limit our ability to grow in that geographic area. In addition, geographic limitations imposed by manufacturers could restrict our ability to make geographic acquisitions involving markets that overlap with those we already serve. We may acquire only four primary Lexus dealerships or six outlets nationally, including only two Lexus dealerships in any one of the four Lexus geographic areas. We own three primary Lexus dealerships. Also, we own the maximum number of Toyota dealerships we are currently permitted to own in the Gulf States
region, which is comprised of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas, and in the Boston region, which is comprised of Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.
If we lose key personnel or are unable to attract additional qualified personnel, our business could be adversely affected because we rely on the industry knowledge and relationships of our key personnel.
We believe our success depends to a significant extent upon the efforts and abilities of our executive officers, senior management and key employees, including our regional vice presidents. Additionally, our business is dependent upon our ability to continue to attract and retain qualified personnel, including the management of acquired dealerships. The market for qualified employees in the industry and in the regions in which we operate, particularly for general managers and sales and service personnel, is highly competitive and may subject us to increased labor costs during periods of low unemployment. We do not have employment agreements with most of our dealership general managers and other key dealership personnel.
The unexpected or unanticipated loss of the services of one or more members of our senior management team could have a material adverse effect on us and materially impair the efficiency and productivity of our operations. We do not have key man insurance for any of our executive officers or key personnel. In addition, the loss of any of our key employees or the failure to attract qualified managers could have a material adverse effect on our business and may materially impact the ability of our dealerships to conduct their operations in accordance with our national standards.
Substantial competition in automotive sales and services may adversely affect our profitability due to our need to lower prices to sustain sales.
The automotive retail industry is highly competitive. Depending on the geographic market, we compete with:
We also compete with regional and national vehicle rental companies that sell their used rental vehicles. In addition, automobile manufacturers may directly enter the retail market in the future, which could have a material adverse effect on us. As we seek to acquire dealerships in new markets, we may face significant competition as we strive to gain market share. Some of our competitors may have greater financial, marketing and personnel resources and lower overhead and sales costs than we have. We do not have any cost advantage in purchasing new vehicles from vehicle manufacturers and typically rely on advertising, merchandising, sales expertise, service reputation and dealership location in order to sell new vehicles. Our franchise agreements do not grant us the exclusive right to sell a manufacturers product within a given geographic area. Our revenues and profitability may be materially and adversely affected if competing dealerships expand their market share or are awarded additional franchises by manufacturers that supply our dealerships.
In addition to competition for vehicle sales, our dealerships compete with franchised dealerships to perform warranty repairs and with other automotive dealers, franchised and independent service center chains and independent garages for non-warranty repair and routine maintenance business. Our parts operations compete with other automotive dealers, service stores and auto parts retailers. We believe the principal competitive factors in the parts and service business are the quality of customer service, the use of factory-approved replacement parts, familiarity with a manufacturers brands and models, convenience, access to technology required for certain repairs and services, location, price, the competence of technicians and the availability of training programs to enhance such expertise. A number of regional or national chains offer selected parts and services at prices that may be lower
than our dealerships prices. We also compete with a broad range of financial institutions in arranging financing for our customers vehicle purchases.
Some automobile manufacturers have acquired in the past, and may attempt to acquire in the future, automotive dealerships in certain states. Our revenues and profitability could be materially adversely affected by the efforts of manufacturers to enter the retail arena.
In addition, the Internet has become a significant part of the advertising and sales process in our industry. Customers are using the Internet as part of the sales process to compare pricing for cars and related finance and insurance services, which may reduce gross profit margins for new and used cars and profits for related finance and insurance services. Some Web sites offer vehicles for sale over the Internet without the benefit of having a dealership franchise, although they must currently source their vehicles from a franchised dealer. If Internet new vehicle sales are allowed to be conducted without the involvement of franchised dealers, or if dealerships are able to effectively use the Internet to sell outside of their markets, our business could be materially adversely affected. We would also be materially adversely affected to the extent that Internet companies acquire dealerships or align themselves with our competitors dealerships.
Please see Business Competition for more discussion of competition in our industry.
The impairment of our goodwill, our indefinite-lived intangibles and our other long-lived assets has had, and may have in the future, a material adverse effect on our reported results of operations.
We assess goodwill and other indefinite-lived intangibles for impairment on an annual basis, or more frequently when events or circumstances indicate that an impairment may have occurred. We assess the carrying value of our long-lived assets when events or circumstances indicate that an impairment may have occurred.
Based on the organization and management of our business, we determined that each region qualified as reporting units for the purpose of assessing goodwill for impairment. To determine the fair value of our reporting units in assessing the carrying value of our goodwill for impairment, we use a combination of the discounted cash flow and market approaches. Included in this analysis are assumptions regarding revenue growth rates, future gross margin estimates, future selling, general and administrative expense rates and our weighted average cost of capital (WACC). We also must estimate residual values at the end of the forecast period and future capital expenditure requirements. Each of these assumptions requires us to use our knowledge of (a) our industry, (b) our recent transactions, and (c) reasonable performance expectations for our operations. If any one of the above assumptions changes, or fails to materialize, the resulting decline in our estimated fair value could result in a material impairment charge to the goodwill associated with the applicable reporting unit, especially with respect to those operations acquired prior to July 1, 2001.
We are required to evaluate the carrying value of our indefinite-lived, intangible franchise rights at a dealership level. To test the carrying value of each individual intangible franchise right for impairment, we also use a discounted cash flow based approach. Included in this analysis are assumptions, at a dealership level, regarding revenue growth rates, future gross margin estimates and future selling, general and administrative expense rates. Using our WACC, estimated residual values at the end of the forecast period and future capital expenditure requirements, we calculate the fair value of each dealerships franchise rights after considering estimated values for tangible assets, working capital and workforce. If any one of the above assumptions changes, or fails to materialize, the resulting decline in our estimated fair value could result in a material impairment charge to the intangible franchise right associated with the applicable dealership.
We are required to evaluate the carrying value of our long-lived assets at the lowest level of identifiable cash flows. To test the carrying value of assets to be sold, we generally use independent, third-party appraisals or pending transactions as an estimate of fair value. In the event of an adverse change in the real estate market, the resulting decline in our estimated fair value could result in a material impairment charge to the associated long-lived assets.
All of the borrowings under our various credit facilities bear interest based on a floating rate. Therefore, our interest expense would increase with any rise in interest rates. We have entered into derivative transactions to convert a portion of our variable rate debt to fixed rates to partially mitigate this risk. A rise in interest rates may also have the effect of depressing demand in the interest rate sensitive aspects of our business, particularly new and used vehicle sales, because many of our customers finance their vehicle purchases. As a result, a rise in interest rates may have the effect of simultaneously increasing our costs and reducing our revenues. In addition, we receive credit assistance from certain automobile manufacturers, which is reflected as a reduction in cost of sales on our statements of operations. Please see Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures about Market Risk for a discussion regarding our interest rate sensitivity.
Natural disasters and adverse weather events can disrupt our business.
Our dealerships are concentrated in states and regions in the U.S. in which actual or threatened natural disasters and severe weather events (such as hurricanes, earthquakes and hail storms) have in the past and may in the future disrupt our dealership operations. A disruption in our operations may adversely impact our business, results of operations, financial condition and cash flows. In addition to business interruption, the automotive retailing business is subject to substantial risk of property loss due to the significant concentration of property at dealership locations. Although we have, subject to certain limitations and exclusions, substantial insurance, including business interruption insurance, we cannot assure you that we will not be exposed to uninsured or underinsured losses that could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations or cash flows.
Climate change legislation or regulations restricting emission of greenhouse gases could result in increased operating costs and reduced demand for the vehicles we sell.
On December 15, 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its findings that emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases present an endangerment to public health and the environment because emissions of such gases are, according to the EPA, contributing to warming of the earths atmosphere and other climatic changes. These findings allow the EPA to adopt and implement regulations that would restrict emissions of greenhouse gases under existing provisions of the federal Clean Air Act. Accordingly, the EPA has proposed regulations that would require a reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases from motor vehicles and could trigger permit review for greenhouse gas emissions from certain stationary sources. In addition, on October 30, 2009, the EPA published a final rule requiring the reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from specified large greenhouse gas emission sources in the United States, including facilities that emit more than 25,000 tons of greenhouse gases on an annual basis, beginning in 2011 for emissions occurring in 2010. At the state level, more than one-third of the states, either individually or through multi-state regional initiatives, already have begun implementing legal measures to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. The adoption and implementation of any regulations imposing reporting obligations on, or limiting emissions of greenhouse gases from, our equipment and operations or from the vehicles that we sell could adversely affect demand for those vehicles or require us to incur costs to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases associated with our operations.
We incur significant costs to comply with applicable environmental, health and safety laws and regulations in the ordinary course of our business. We do not anticipate, however, that the costs of such compliance with current laws and regulations will have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, cash flows or financial condition, although such outcome is possible given the nature of our operations and the extensive environmental, public health and safety regulatory framework, the clear trend of which is to place more restrictions and limitations on activities that may be perceived to affect the environment. Finally, we generally conduct environmental studies on dealerships to be sold for the purpose of determining our ongoing liability after the sale, if any.
Our insurance does not fully cover all of our operational risks, and changes in the cost of insurance or the availability of insurance could materially increase our insurance costs or result in a decrease in our insurance coverage.
The operation of automobile dealerships is subject to compliance with a wide range of laws and regulations and is subject to a broad variety of risks. While we have insurance on our real property, comprehensive coverage for our vehicle inventory, general liability insurance, workers compensation insurance, employee dishonesty coverage, employment practices liability insurance, pollution coverage and errors and omissions insurance in connection with vehicle sales and financing activities, we are self-insured for a portion of our potential liabilities. We purchase insurance policies for workers compensation, liability, auto physical damage, property, pollution, employee medical benefits and other risks consisting of large deductibles and/or self-insured retentions.
In certain instances, our insurance may not fully cover an insured loss depending on the magnitude and nature of the claim. Additionally, changes in the cost of insurance or the availability of insurance in the future could substantially increase our costs to maintain our current level of coverage or could cause us to reduce our insurance coverage and increase the portion of our risks that we self-insure.
Our indebtedness and lease obligations could materially adversely affect our financial health, limit our ability to finance future acquisitions and capital expenditures, and prevent us from fulfilling our financial obligations.
Our indebtedness and lease obligations could impact us, in the following ways:
Global financial markets and economic conditions have been, and continue to be, disrupted and volatile. The debt and equity capital markets have been exceedingly distressed. In particular, availability of funds from those markets has diminished significantly, while the cost of raising money in the debt and equity capital markets has increased substantially. Also, as a result of concerns about the stability of financial markets and the solvency of counterparties, the cost of obtaining money from the credit markets has increased as many lenders and institutional investors have increased interest rates, enacted tighter lending standards, refused to refinance existing debt at maturity at all or on terms similar to current debt, and reduced and, in some cases, ceased to provide funding to borrowers. These issues, along with significant write-offs in the financial services sector, the re-pricing of credit risk and the current weak economic conditions have made, and will likely continue to make, it difficult to obtain funding.
Our inability to meet a financial covenant contained in our debt agreements may adversely affect our liquidity, financial condition or results of operations.
Our debt instruments contain numerous covenants that limit our discretion with respect to business matters, including mergers or acquisitions, paying dividends, repurchasing our common stock, incurring additional debt or disposing of assets. A breach of any of these covenants could result in a default under the applicable agreement or indenture. In addition, a default under one agreement or indenture could result in a default and acceleration of our repayment obligations under the other agreements or indentures under the cross default provisions in those agreements or indentures. If a default or cross default were to occur, we may be required to renegotiate the terms of our indebtedness, which would likely be on less favorable terms than our current terms and cause us to incur additional fees to process. Alternatively, we may not be able to pay our debts or borrow sufficient funds to refinance
them. As a result of this risk, we could be forced to take actions that we otherwise would not take, or not take actions that we otherwise might take, in order to comply with the covenants in these agreements and indentures.
Our U.K. operations are subject to risks associated with foreign currency and exchange rate fluctuations.
In 2007, we expanded our operations into the U.K. As such, we are exposed to additional risks related to such foreign operations, including:
Our Consolidated Financial Statements reflect that our results of operations and financial position are reported in local currency and are converted into U.S. dollars at the applicable currency rate. Fluctuations in such currency rates may have a material effect on our results of operations or financial position as reported in U.S. dollars.
Certain restrictions relating to our management and ownership of our common stock could deter prospective acquirers from acquiring control of us and adversely affect our ability to engage in equity offerings.
As a condition to granting their consent to our previous acquisitions and our initial public offering, some of our manufacturers have imposed other restrictions on us. These restrictions prohibit, among other things:
Our manufacturers may also impose additional similar restrictions on us in the future. Actions by our stockholders or prospective stockholders, which would violate any of the above restrictions are generally outside our control. If we are unable to comply with or renegotiate these restrictions, we may be forced to terminate or sell one or more franchises, which could have a material adverse effect on us. These restrictions may prevent or deter prospective acquirers from acquiring control of us and, therefore, may adversely impact the value of our common stock. These restrictions also may impede our ability to acquire dealership groups, to raise required capital or to issue our stock as consideration for future acquisitions.
Our certificate of incorporation, bylaws and franchise agreements contain provisions that make a takeover of us difficult.
Our certificate of incorporation and bylaws could make it more difficult for a third party to acquire control of us, even if such change of control would be beneficial to our stockholders. These include provisions:
In addition, certain of our franchise agreements prohibit the acquisition of more than a specified percentage of our common stock without the consent of the relevant manufacturer. These terms of our franchise agreements could also make it more difficult for a third party to acquire control of us.
We can issue preferred stock without stockholder approval, which could materially adversely affect the rights of common stockholders.
Our restated certificate of incorporation authorizes us to issue blank check preferred stock, the designation, number, voting powers, preferences, and rights of which may be fixed or altered from time to time by our board of directors. Accordingly, the board of directors has the authority, without stockholder approval, to issue preferred stock with rights that could materially adversely affect the voting power or other rights of the common stock holders or the market value of the common stock.
Governmental Regulation pertaining to fuel economy (CAFE) standards may affect the manufacturers ability to produce cost effective vehicles.
The Energy Policy Conservation Act, enacted into law by Congress in 1975, added Title V, Improving Automotive Efficiency, to the Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act and established Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for passenger cars and light trucks. CAFE is the sales weighted average fuel economy, expressed in miles per gallon (mpg) of a manufacturers fleet of passenger cars or light trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of 8,500 pounds or less, manufactured for sale in the U.S., for any given model year. The Secretary of Transportation has delegated authority to establish CAFE standards to the Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). NHTSA is responsible for establishing and amending the CAFE standards; promulgating regulations concerning CAFE procedures, definitions and reports; considering petitions for exemptions from standards for low volume manufacturers and establishing unique standards for them; enforcing fuel economy standards and regulations; responding to petitions concerning domestic production by foreign manufacturers and all other aspects of CAFE.
The primary goal of CAFE was to substantially increase passenger car fuel efficiency. Congress has continuously increased the standards since 1974, and, since mid-year 1990, the passenger car standard was increased to 27.5 miles per gallon, which it has remained at this level through 2009. The new law requires passenger car fuel economy to rise to an industry average of 35 miles per gallon by 2020. Likewise, light truck CAFE standards have been established over the years and significant changes were adopted in November 2006. As of mid-year 2007, the standard was increased to 22.2 miles per gallon and is expected to be increased to about 24 miles per gallon by 2011.
The penalty for a manufacturers failure to meet the CAFE standards is currently $5.50 per tenth of a mile per gallon for each tenth under the target volume times the total volume of those vehicles manufactured for a given model year. Manufacturers can earn CAFE credits to offset deficiencies in their CAFE performances. These credits can be applied to any three consecutive model years immediately prior to or subsequent to the model year in which the credits are earned.
Failure of a manufacturer to develop passenger vehicles and light trucks that meet CAFE standards could subject the manufacturer to substantial penalties, increase the costs of vehicles sold to us, and adversely affect our ability to market and sell vehicles to meet consumer needs and desires. Furthermore, Congress may continue to increase CAFE standards in the future and such additional legislation may have an adverse impact on the manufacturers and our business operations.
We are subject to substantial regulation which may adversely affect our profitability and significantly increase our costs in the future.
A number of state and federal laws and regulations affect our business. We are also subject to laws and regulations relating to business corporations generally. Any failure to comply with these laws and regulations may result in the assessment of administrative, civil, or criminal penalties, the imposition of remedial obligations or the issuance of injunctions limiting or prohibiting our operations. In every state in which we operate, we must obtain various licenses in order to operate our businesses, including dealer, sales, finance and insurance-related licenses issued by state authorities. These laws also regulate our conduct of business, including our advertising, operating, financing, employment and sales practices. Other laws and regulations include state franchise laws and regulations and other extensive laws and regulations applicable to new and used motor vehicle dealers, as well as federal and state wage-hour, anti-discrimination and other employment practices laws. Furthermore, some states have initiated consumer bill of rights statutes which involve increases in our costs associated with the sale of vehicles, or decreases in some of our profit centers.
Our financing activities with customers are subject to federal truth-in-lending, consumer leasing and equal credit opportunity laws and regulations, as well as state and local motor vehicle finance laws, installment finance laws, insurance laws, usury laws and other installment sales laws and regulations. Some states regulate finance fees and charges that may be paid as a result of vehicle sales. Claims arising out of actual or alleged violations of law may be asserted against us or our dealerships by individuals or governmental entities and may expose us to significant damages or other penalties, including revocation or suspension of our licenses to conduct dealership operations and fines.
Our operations are also subject to the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, the Magnusson-Moss Warranty Act, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards promulgated by the United States Department of Transportation and various state motor vehicle regulatory agencies. The imported automobiles we purchase are subject to U.S. customs duties and, in the ordinary course of our business, we may, from time to time, be subject to claims for duties, penalties, liquidated damages, or other charges.
Our operations are subject to consumer protection laws known as Lemon Laws. These laws typically require a manufacturer or dealer to replace a new vehicle or accept it for a full refund within one year after initial purchase if the vehicle does not conform to the manufacturers express warranties and the dealer or manufacturer, after a reasonable number of attempts, is unable to correct or repair the defect. Federal laws require various written disclosures to be provided on new vehicles, including mileage and pricing information.
Possible penalties for violation of any of these laws or regulations include revocation or suspension of our licenses and civil or criminal fines and penalties. In addition, many laws may give customers a private cause of action. Violation of these laws, the cost of compliance with these laws, or changes in these laws could result in adverse financial consequences to us.
Our automotive dealerships are subject to stringent federal, state and local environmental laws and regulations that may result in claims and liabilities, which could be material.
We are subject to a wide range of federal, state and local environmental laws and regulations, including those governing discharges into the air and water, spills or releases onto soils and into ground water, the operation and removal of underground and aboveground storage tanks, and the investigation and remediation of contamination. As with automotive dealerships generally, and service, parts and body shop operations in particular, our business involves the use, storage, handling and contracting for recycling or disposal of hazardous substances or wastes and other environmentally sensitive materials. These environmental laws and regulations may impose numerous obligations that are applicable to our operations including the acquisition of permits to conduct regulated activities, the incurrence of capital expenditures to limit or prevent releases of materials from our storage tanks and other equipment that we operate, and the imposition of substantial liabilities for pollution resulting from our operations. Numerous governmental authorities, such as the EPA, and analogous state agencies, have the power to enforce compliance with these laws and regulations and the permits issued under them, oftentimes requiring difficult and costly actions. Failure to comply with these laws, regulations, and permits may result in the assessment of administrative, civil, and criminal penalties, the imposition of remedial obligations, and the issuance of injunctions
limiting or preventing some or all of our operations. Similar to many of our competitors, we have incurred and will continue to incur, capital and operating expenditures and other costs in complying with such laws and regulations.
There is risk of incurring significant environmental costs and liabilities in the operation of our automotive dealerships due to our handling of petroleum products and other materials characterized as hazardous substances or hazardous wastes, the threat of spills and releases arising in the course of operations, especially from storage tanks, and the threat of contamination arising from historical operations and waste disposal practices, some of which may have been performed by third parties not under our control. In addition, in connection with our acquisitions, it is possible that we will assume or become subject to new or unforeseen environmental costs or liabilities, some of which may be material. In connection with our dispositions, or prior dispositions made by companies we acquire, we may retain exposure for environmental costs and liabilities, some of which may be material. Moreover, the clear trend in environmental regulation is to place more restrictions and limitations on activities that may affect the environment and, as a result, we may be required to make material additional expenditures to comply with existing or future laws or regulations, or as a result of the future discovery of environmental conditions not in compliance with then applicable law. Please see Business Governmental Regulations Environmental, Health and Safety Laws and Regulations and Risk Factors Climate change legislation or regulations restricting emission of greenhouse gases could result in increased operating costs and reduced demand for the vehicles as well for more discussion of the effect of such laws and regulations on us.
We presently lease our corporate headquarters, which is located at 800 Gessner, Houston, Texas. In addition, as of December 31, 2009, we had 130 franchises situated in 98 dealership locations throughout 15 states in the U.S. and in the U.K. As of December 31, 2009, we leased 68 of these locations and owned the remainder. We have one location in Massachusetts, one location in Alabama and one location in Mississippi where we lease the land but own the building facilities. These locations are included in the leased column of the table below:
We use a number of facilities to conduct our dealership operations. Each of our dealerships may include facilities for (1) new and used vehicle sales, (2) vehicle service operations, (3) retail and wholesale parts operations, (4) collision service operations, (5) storage and (6) general office use. In the past, we tried to structure our operations so as to avoid the ownership of real property. In connection with our acquisitions, we generally sought to lease rather than acquire the facilities on which the acquired dealerships were located. We generally entered into lease agreements with respect to such facilities that have 30-year total terms with 15-year initial terms and three five-year option periods, at our option. As a result, we lease the majority of our facilities under long-term operating leases. See Note 8 to our Consolidated Financial Statements.
In March of 2007, we established a Mortgage Facility for the primary purpose of acquiring land and buildings on which certain of our existing dealerships are located or for newly acquired land and buildings in which a new dealership is located. One of our subsidiaries, Group 1 Realty, Inc., typically acquires the property and acts as the landlord of our dealership operations. During 2008 and 2009, due to slowing business conditions and fewer acquisitions, we have slowed our dealership real estate acquisition activity. For the year ended December 31, 2009, we acquired $4.2 million of real estate in conjunction with our dealership acquisitions. With these acquisitions, the capitalized value of the real estate that we owned was $391.9 million as of December 31, 2009.
From time to time, our dealerships are named in various types of litigation involving customer claims, employment matters, class action claims, purported class action claims, as well as claims involving the manufacturer of automobiles, contractual disputes and other matters arising in the ordinary course of business. Due to the nature of the automotive retailing business, we may be involved in legal proceedings or suffer losses that could have a material adverse effect on our business. In the normal course of business, we are required to respond to customer, employee and other third-party complaints. Amounts that have been accrued or paid related to the settlement of litigation are included in selling, general and administrative expenses in our Consolidated Statements of Operations. In addition, the manufacturers of the vehicles that we sell and service have audit rights allowing them to review the validity of amounts claimed for incentive, rebate or warranty-related items and charge us back for amounts determined to be invalid rewards under the manufacturers programs, subject to our right to appeal any such decision. Amounts that have been accrued or paid related to the settlement of manufacturer chargebacks of recognized incentives and rebates are included in cost of sales in our Consolidated Statements of Operations, while such amounts for manufacturer chargebacks of recognized warranty-related items are included as a reduction of revenues in our Consolidated Statements of Operations.
Until 2007, our dealerships sold credit insurance policies to its vehicle customers and received payments for these services through relationships with insurance companies. Allegations were made against these insurance companies with which we did business, claiming that the insurance companies lacked adequate monitoring processes and, as a result, failed to remit to policyholders the appropriate amount of unearned premiums when the policies were cancelled in conjunction with early payoffs of the associated loan balances. As of February 12, 2010, we have settled claims for an aggregate of $2.5 million against our dealerships for the return of commissions on premiums required to be refunded to customers, as required by our contractual obligations with the insurance companies. The commissions received on the sale of credit insurance products are deferred and recognized as revenue over the life of the policies, in accordance with the Financial Accounting Standards Board (the FASB) Accounting Standards Codification (ASC) Topic No. 944, Financial Services-Insurance (ASC 944). As such, a portion of the payouts was offset against deferred revenue, while the remainder was recognized as a finance and insurance chargeback expense. We believe that we have resolved all such matters as of the date hereof, and no other claims or demands for our dealerships to return, refund or repay such commissions. While we cannot be certain whether future claims will be made, we have no reason to believe amounts, if any, would be material.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, we are not party to any legal proceedings, including class action lawsuits that, individually or in the aggregate, are reasonably expected to have a material adverse effect on our results of operations, financial condition or cash flows. However, the results of these matters cannot be predicted with certainty, and an unfavorable resolution of one or more of these matters could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations, financial condition or cash flows.
The common stock is listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol GPI. There were 75 holders of record of our common stock as of February 9, 2010.
The following table presents the quarterly high and low sales prices for our common stock, as reported on the New York Stock Exchange Composite Tape under the symbol GPI and dividends paid per common share for 2008 and 2009:
On February 19, 2009, our Board of Directors indefinitely suspended the dividend, due to economic uncertainty. The payment of dividends in the future is subject to the discretion of our Board of Directors after considering our results of operations, financial condition, cash flows, capital requirements, outlook for our business, general business conditions and other factors.
Provisions of our credit facilities and our senior subordinated notes require us to maintain certain financial ratios and limit the amount of disbursements we may make outside the ordinary course of business. These include limitations on the payment of cash dividends and on stock repurchases, which are limited to a percentage of cumulative net income. As of December 31, 2009, our 8.25% Notes were the most restrictive agreement in this regard, limiting us to $19.5 million of such payments. This amount will increase or decrease in future periods by adding to the current limitation the sum of 50% of our consolidated net income, if positive, and 100% of equity issuances, less actual dividends or stock repurchases completed in each quarterly period. Our Revolving Credit Facility matures in 2012 and our 8.25% Notes mature in 2013.
The following Performance Graph and related information shall not be deemed soliciting material or filed with the SEC, nor shall such information be incorporated by reference into any future filing under the Securities Act of 1933 or the Exchange Act, each as amended, except to the extent that we specifically incorporate it by reference into such filing. The graph compares the performance of our common stock to the S&P 500 Index and to a peer group for our last five fiscal years. The members of the peer group are Asbury Automotive Group, Inc., AutoNation, Inc., Lithia Motors, Inc., Penske Automotive Group, Inc. and Sonic Automotive, Inc. The source for the information contained in this table is Zacks Investment Research, Inc.
The returns of each member of the peer group are weighted according to each members stock market capitalization as of the beginning of each period measured. The graph assumes that the value of the investment in our common stock, the S&P 500 Index and the peer group was $100 on the last trading day of December 2004, and that all dividends were reinvested. Performance data for Group 1, the S&P 500 Index and for the peer group is provided as of the last trading day of each of our last five fiscal years.
COMPARISON OF 5 YEAR CUMULATIVE TOTAL RETURN
AMONG GROUP 1 AUTOMOTIVE, INC., S&P 500 INDEX AND A PEER GROUP
TOTAL RETURN BASED ON $100 INITIAL INVESTMENT & REINVESTMENT OF DIVIDENDS
No shares of our common stock were repurchased during the three months ended December 31, 2009. See Business Stock Repurchase Program for more information.
The following selected historical financial data as of December 31, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, and 2005, and for the five years in the period ended December 31, 2009, have been derived from our audited Consolidated Financial Statements, subject to certain reclassifications to make prior years conform to the current year presentation, including discontinued operations accounting and the accounting requirements for convertible debt instruments that may be settled in cash upon conversion made effective by the FASB in 2009. This selected financial data should be read in conjunction with Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations and the Consolidated Financial Statements and related notes included elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
We have accounted for all of our dealership acquisitions using the purchase method of accounting. As a result, we do not include in our financial statements the results of operations of these dealerships prior to the date we acquired them, which may impact the comparability of the financial information presented. Also, as a result of the effects of our acquisitions, dispositions other potential factors in the future, the historical financial information described in the selected financial data and is not necessarily indicative of our results of operations and financial position in the future or the results of operations and financial position that would have resulted had such transactions occurred at the beginning of the periods presented in the selected financial data:
You should read the following discussion in conjunction with Part I, including the matters set forth in the Risk Factors section, and our Consolidated Financial Statements and notes thereto included elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
We are a leading operator in the automotive retail industry. As of December 31, 2009, we owned and operated 124 franchises at 95 dealership locations and 22 collision service centers in the U.S. and six franchises at three dealerships and two collision centers in the U.K. We market and sell an extensive range of automotive products and services including new and used vehicles and related financing, vehicle maintenance and repair services, replacement parts, and warranty, insurance and extended service contracts. Our operations are primarily located in major metropolitan areas in Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas in the U.S. and in the towns of Brighton, Hailsham and Worthing in the U.K.
As of December 31, 2009, our retail network consisted of the following three regions (with the number of dealerships they comprised): (i) the Eastern (41 dealerships in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and South Carolina), (ii) the Central (43 dealerships in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas), and (iii) the Western (11 dealerships in California). Each region is managed by a regional vice president who reports directly to our Chief Executive Officer and is responsible for the overall performance of their regions, as well as for overseeing the market directors and dealership general managers that report to them. Each region is also managed by a regional chief financial officer who reports directly to our Chief Financial Officer. Our dealerships in the U.K. are also managed locally with direct reporting responsibilities to our corporate management team.
We typically seek to acquire large, profitable, well-established and well-managed dealerships that are leaders in their respective market areas. From January 1, 2005, through December 31, 2009, we have acquired 41 franchises with annual revenues of $1.7 billion, disposed of or terminated 57 franchises with annual revenues of $0.7 billion, and been granted five new franchises by our manufacturers. In 2009 alone, we acquired two luxury, two import and one domestic franchise with expected annual revenues of $108.4 million. In the following discussion and analysis, we report certain performance measures of our newly acquired dealerships separately from those of our existing dealerships. Also during 2009, we disposed of seven domestic and one luxury franchise with annual revenues of $126.2 million. We make disposition decisions based principally on the rate of return on our capital investment, the location of the dealership, our ability to leverage our cost structure, the franchise and existing real estate obligations.
Our operating results reflect the combined performance of each of our interrelated business activities, which include the sale of new vehicles, used vehicles, finance and insurance products, and parts, service and collision repair services. Historically, each of these activities has been directly or indirectly impacted by a variety of supply/demand factors, including vehicle inventories, consumer confidence, discretionary spending, availability and affordability of consumer credit, manufacturer incentives, weather patterns, fuel prices and interest rates. For example, during periods of sustained economic downturn or significant supply/demand imbalances, new vehicle sales may be negatively impacted as consumers tend to shift their purchases to used vehicles. Some consumers may even delay their purchasing decisions altogether, electing instead to repair their existing vehicles. In such cases, however, we believe the new vehicle sales impact on our overall business is mitigated by our ability to offer other products and services, such as used vehicles and parts, service and collision repair services, as well as our ability to reduce our costs in response to lower sales.
We generally experience higher volumes of vehicle sales and service in the second and third calendar quarters of each year. This seasonality is generally attributable to consumer buying trends and the timing of manufacturer new vehicle model introductions. In addition, in some regions of the U.S., vehicle purchases decline during the winter months due to inclement weather. As a result, our revenues, cash flows and operating income are typically lower in the first and fourth quarters and higher in the second and third quarters. Other factors unrelated to seasonality, such as changes in economic condition and manufacturer incentive programs, may exaggerate seasonal or cause counter-seasonal fluctuations in our revenues and operating income.
Since September 2008, the U.S. and global economies have suffered from, among other things, a substantial decline in consumer confidence, a rise in unemployment and a tightening of credit availability. As a result, the retail automotive industry was negatively impacted by decreasing customer demand for new and used vehicles, vehicle margin pressures and higher inventory levels. In addition, the economic downturn has adversely impacted the manufacturers that supply our new vehicle inventory and some of our parts inventory, particularly the three domestic manufacturers. Excluding the positive impact of the U.S. government-sponsored Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) program on the automotive selling environment during August 2009, consumer demand for new and used vehicles seems to have stabilized. Given the depths of this downturn, a recovery to historically normalized industry selling levels will probably be extended.
In response to this challenging economic environment, we took a number of steps to adjust our cost structure, strengthen our cash balance and improve liquidity. We implemented significant cost cuts in our ongoing operating structure, to appropriately size our business and allow us to manage through this industry downturn, including: wage cuts for our senior management team and Board of Directors, as well as various other levels, alterations to pay plans, headcount reductions and the elimination or minimization of several other variable expenses to align with current and projected operational results. Specifically related to personnel expenses, we initiated various wage cuts for the Board of Directors and senior management, as well as for all other corporate employees and various other regional, market and dealership level employees. In addition, we suspended various employee benefits. Further, we reduced headcount by 22% from the beginning of 2008. As it relates to other variable expenses, our cost reductions were primarily related to a decrease in overall advertising levels and a shift to utilization of various in-house and email marketing tools, as well as our ability to capitalize on declining media rates. Other variable expense reductions also reflect initiatives designed to reduce software solutions, contract labor, travel and entertainment, delivery and loaner car expenses. For 2009, these actions generated $118.4 million in cost savings from 2008 levels. Approximately 65% of the cost reductions were personnel-related expenses and the remaining 35% are attributable to advertising and other expenses. During the economic downturn, we have used the cash that we generated from our operations to pay down debt. Most notably, we redeemed a portion of our 2.25% Notes with an aggregate par value of $41.7 million during the year ended December 31, 2009. To further improve liquidity, we reduced new vehicle inventory levels by $260.7 million and our parts inventory levels by $12.9 million during 2009, respectively. And, we continue to closely scrutinize all planned future capital spending and work closely with our manufacturer partners in this area. As a result, 2009 capital spending, which consisted primarily of required facility maintenance projects, totaled $21.6 million, down significantly from 2008 levels of $52.8 million.
Despite the challenging retail and economic environment, we believe that opportunities exist in the marketplace to maintain or improve profitability, including: (i) focusing on our higher margin parts and service and finance and insurance businesses, (ii) managing our inventory to meet customer demands, and (iii) continuing to scrutinize cost reduction initiatives. Efforts designed to maintain and/or improve the profitability of our parts and service business focus on marketing efforts, strategic selling and operational efficiencies. Within our finance and insurance business, our profitability initiatives have primarily focused on the minimization of product costs. As it relates to inventory management, our local management teams are focused on the balance between small inventory supply, which reduces inventory carrying costs but increases the risk of not satisfying customer demand, and large inventory supply, which increases inventory carrying costs but decreases the risk of not satisfying customer demand.
Amid the economic turmoil of 2009, Chrysler LLC (Chrysler) and General Motors Corporation (General Motors) filed for protection under the bankruptcy laws of the U.S. At that time we owned and operated eight Chrysler brand dealerships, all of which contain Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge franchises, and seven General Motors brand dealerships, five of which contain Chevrolet franchises only and two of which contain Buick, Pontiac and GMC franchises. And although both Chrysler and General Motors terminated a number of their dealer franchise agreements in conjunction with their respective bankruptcies and restructuring efforts, we retained each of our dealership franchise agreements, with the exception of Pontiac which is being discontinued as a brand. While the comprehensive impact on us of the bankruptcies and subsequent business restructurings of Chrysler and General Motors will not be fully known for some time, we have continued to collect our receivables from both Chrysler and General Motors and did not experience a significant decline in the valuation of our vehicle and parts inventory through December 31, 2009.
Also, during 2009, Chrysler Financial and GMAC, the two financing subsidiaries of Chrysler and General Motors, separated from their affiliated manufacturer entities. As a result, GMAC continued to provide services to support the financing of General Motors vehicle purchases and assumed support from Chrysler Financial for the financing of Chrysler vehicle purchases. Prior to these events, we relied upon Chrysler Financial and GMAC to finance a portion of the new and used retail vehicle sales for our customers. We will continue to rely upon GMAC for these financing services. However, the operational and financial impact of the separation of Chrysler Financial or GMAC from their respective affiliated manufacturer and the assumption by GMAC of Chrysler Financial financing support is not predictable at this time, but could be adverse to us.
In January 2010, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. (Toyota) temporarily suspended the production and sale of certain models representing about two-thirds of their total unit sales in the U.S. and launched a recall to address quality issues on those vehicles. In the near-term, this recall could negatively impact our new and used vehicle sales. And, longer term, Toyotas reputation for quality vehicles could be permanently impaired, despite the efforts of Toyota to quickly and effectively address these quality issues. In contrast, our warranty parts and service business may be bolstered while units in inventory and operation are repaired. We are unable to estimate the longer term net impact of this recall, but, since Toyota brands represented 36.6% of our unit sales in 2009, it could be materially adverse to our financial condition and results of operations.
For the year ended December 31, 2009, we realized a net income of $34.8 million, or $1.49 per diluted share, and for the years ended December 31, 2008 and 2007, we realized net loss of $48.0 million, or $2.12 per diluted share, and net income of $63.4 million, or $2.71 per diluted share, respectively. In addition to the matters described above, the following factors impacted our financial condition and results of operations in 2009, 2008 and 2007:
Year Ended December 31, 2009:
Year Ended December 31, 2008:
During the fourth quarter of 2008, we performed our annual assessment of impairments relative to our goodwill and other indefinite-lived intangible assets. As a result, we identified additional impairments of our recorded value of intangible franchise rights, primarily attributable to the continued weakening of the U.S. economy, higher market risk premiums, the negative impact of the economic recession on the automotive retail industry and the growing uncertainty surrounding the three domestic automobile manufacturers, all of which worsened between our third and fourth quarter impairment assessments. Specifically, with regards to the valuation assumptions utilized in our income approach, we increased our WACC from the one utilized in our impairment assessment during the third quarter of 2008 and historical levels. In addition, because of the negative selling trends experienced in the fourth quarter of 2008, we revised our 2009 industry sales outlook, or seasonally adjusted annual rate (or SAAR), from the forecast used in our third quarter assessment. Further, with regards to the assumptions within our market approach, we utilized historical market multiples of guideline companies for both revenue and pretax net income. These multiples and the resulting fair value estimates were adversely impacted by the declines in stock values during much of 2008, including the fourth quarter. As a result, we recognized a $114.8 million pretax impairment charge in the fourth quarter of 2008, predominantly related to franchises in our Western Region.
Year Ended December 31, 2007:
These items, and other variances between the periods presented, are covered in the following discussion.
The following table highlights certain of the key performance indicators we use to manage our business:
The following discussion briefly highlights certain of the results and trends occurring within our business. Throughout the following discussion, references are made to Same Store results and variances, which are discussed in more detail in the Results of Operations section that follows.
Declining consumer confidence, increasing unemployment, reduced credit availability and weakening economic conditions negatively impacted our operating results in 2009. The weakening economic conditions started in late 2008 and resulted in excessive new vehicle inventory across much of the industry as we entered 2009. During the first 6 months of 2009, the industry sold out of the excessive inventory levels resulting in depressed new vehicle gross margin levels. The CARS program significantly stimulated new vehicle sales and gross margins in the third quarter of 2009 and depleted new vehicle inventory levels. While the margin impact of the CARS program was positive, it did not fully offset the lower levels in the first six months of 2009. We believe that our performance was generally consistent with national retail results of the major brands we represent and the overall blend of markets in which we operate. Our used vehicle results are directly affected by economic conditions, the level of manufacturer
incentives on new vehicles and new vehicle financing, the number and quality of trade-ins and lease turn-ins and the availability of consumer credit. The slowing new vehicle business sharply affected the number of quality used vehicle trade-ins coming into our dealerships in 2009 and made the sourcing of used vehicles more challenging. We were forced to source a larger percentage of our used vehicle inventory from auctions, which has put pressure on our used retail margins. The tighter supply and increased demand for used vehicles increased prices at the auctions for most of 2009 and resulted in improved profitability in the wholesale segment of our business. And, as the differential between new and used vehicle sales prices shrank towards the end of 2009, used vehicle demand weakened and margins were further constricted. The used vehicle gross margin in 2008 was negatively impacted by the shift in consumer preference between cars and trucks due to the gasoline price spike in the second quarter of 2008. Our consolidated finance and insurance income per retail unit also felt the negative impact of the declining economic conditions. However, our total gross margin improved as a result of the increased margin in our used vehicle business and the shift in business mix from our lower margin vehicle business to our higher margin parts and service business.
Our consolidated selling, general and administrative (SG&A) expenses decreased in absolute dollars as a result of the cost reductions we put in place starting in the fourth quarter of 2008. As a percentage of gross profit, SG&A expense declined from 2008, despite a 15.3% decline in gross profit. Included in our SG&A expense decline for 2009 was $71.6 million of personnel-related cost savings and $45.6 million of advertising and other variable expense cuts.
The combination of these factors, coupled with a $163.0 million impairment charge recognized in 2008 related to our intangible franchise rights and certain of our real estate holdings, contributed to a 260 basis point increase in our operating margin. We recorded a $20.9 million impairment charge in 2009, primarily related to real estate holdings.
Our floorplan interest expense decreased 30.3% in 2009 compared to 2008, primarily as a result of a decrease in our weighted average borrowings. Other interest expense decreased 21.0% in 2009, primarily attributable to the redemption of a portion of our 2.25% Notes in the fourth quarter of 2008 and the first nine months of 2009. As a result, and including the reduced level of gains on the repurchase of those 2.25% Notes in 2009 compared to 2008, our pretax margin increased 260 basis points in 2009.
We further address these items, and other variances between the periods presented in the Results of Operations section below.
Refer to the Recent Accounting Pronouncements section within Note 2, Summary of Significant Accounting Polices and Estimates, to our Consolidated Financial Statements for a discussion of those most recent pronouncements that impact us.
The preparation of our financial statements in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles requires management to make certain estimates and assumptions. These estimates and assumptions affect the reported amounts of assets and liabilities, the disclosures of contingent assets and liabilities at the balance sheet date and the amounts of revenues and expenses recognized during the reporting period. We analyze our estimates based on our historical experience and various other assumptions that we believe to be reasonable under the circumstances. However, actual results could differ from such estimates. The following is a discussion of our critical accounting estimates and policies
We have identified below what we believe to be the most pervasive accounting policies and estimates that are of particular importance to the portrayal of our financial position, results of operations and cash flows. See Note 2 to our Consolidated Financial Statements for further discussion of all our significant accounting policies and estimates.
Discontinued Operations. On June 30, 2008, we sold certain operations constituting our entire dealership holdings in one particular market that qualified for discontinued operations accounting and reporting treatment. In
order to reflect these operations as discontinued, the necessary reclassifications have been made to our Consolidated Statements of Operations, as well as our Consolidated Statements of Cash Flows for the years ended December 31, 2008 and 2007.
Inventories. We carry new, used and demonstrator vehicle inventories, as well as parts and accessories inventories, at the lower of cost (determined on a first-in, first-out basis for parts and accessories) or market in the Consolidated Balance Sheets. Vehicle inventory cost consists of the amount paid to acquire the inventory, plus the cost of reconditioning, cost of equipment added and transportation cost. Additionally, we receive interest assistance from some of the automobile manufacturers. This assistance is accounted for as a vehicle purchase price discount and is reflected as a reduction to the inventory cost on our Consolidated Balance Sheets and as a reduction to cost of sales in our Statements of Operations as the vehicles are sold. At December 31, 2009 and 2008, inventory cost had been reduced by $3.3 million and $6.0 million, respectively, for interest assistance received from manufacturers. New vehicle cost of sales was reduced by $20.0 million, $28.3 million and $37.2 million for interest assistance received related to vehicles sold for the years ended December 31, 2009, 2008 and 2007, respectively. The assistance ranged from approximately 49.9% to 87.0% of our floorplan interest expense over the past three years.
As the market value of inventory typically declines over time, we establish new and used vehicle reserves based on our historical loss experience and considerations of current market trends. These reserves are charged to cost of sales and reduce the carrying value of inventory on hand. Used vehicles are complex to value as there is no standardized source for determining exact values and each vehicle and each market in which we operate is unique. As a result, the value of each used vehicle taken at trade-in, or purchased at auction, is determined based on industry data, primarily accessed via our used vehicle management software and the industry expertise of the responsible used vehicle manager. Valuation risk is mitigated, somewhat, by how quickly we turn this inventory. At December 31, 2009, our used vehicle days supply was 31 days.
Goodwill. Goodwill represents the excess, at the date of acquisition, of the purchase price of businesses acquired over the fair value of the net tangible and intangible assets acquired. We perform the annual impairment assessment of goodwill by reporting unit at the end of each calendar year using a fair-value based, two-step test. An impairment analysis is done more frequently if certain events or circumstances arise that would indicate a change in the fair value of the non-financial asset has occurred (i.e., an impairment indicator). As of December 31, 2009, we defined our reporting units as each of our three regions in the U.S. and the U.K.
We use a combination of the discounted cash flow, or income, approach and the market approach to determine the fair value of our reporting units. Included in the discounted cash flow are assumptions regarding revenue growth rates, future gross margins, future SG&A expenses and an estimated weighted average cost of capital (or WACC). We also must estimate residual values at the end of the forecast period and future capital expenditure requirements. Specifically, with regards to the valuation assumptions utilized in our income approach as of December 31, 2009, we based our analysis on a slow recovery back to normalized levels of a seasonally adjusted annual rate (or SAAR) of 15.0 million units by 2014. For the market approach, we utilize recent market multiples of guideline companies for both revenue and pretax net income. Each of these assumptions requires us to use our knowledge of (1) the industry, (2) recent transactions and (3) reasonable performance expectations for our operations. We have concluded that these valuation inputs qualify Goodwill to be categorized within Level 3 of our ASC Topic No. 820, Fair Value of Measurements and Disclosures (ASC 820) hierarchy framework (See Note 16, Fair Value Measurements). If any one of the above assumptions change, in some cases insignificantly, or fails to materialize, the resulting decline in the estimated fair value could result in a material impairment charge to the goodwill associated with our reporting unit(s).
In evaluating goodwill for impairment, we compare the carrying value of the net assets of each reporting unit to its respective fair value. This represents the first step of the impairment test. If the fair value of a reporting unit is less than the carrying value of its net assets, we are then required to proceed to step two of the impairment test. The second step involves allocating the calculated fair value to all of the tangible and identifiable intangible assets of the reporting unit as if the calculated fair value was the purchase price of the business combination. This allocation could result in assigning value to intangible assets not previously recorded separately from goodwill prior to the adoption of guidance primarily codified within the ASC Topic No. 805, Business Combinations (ASC 805), which could result in less implied residual value assigned to goodwill (see discussion regarding franchise rights
acquired prior to July 1, 2001, in Intangible Franchise Rights below). We then compare the value of the implied goodwill resulting from this second step to the carrying value of the goodwill in the reporting unit. To the extent the carrying value of the goodwill exceeds the implied fair value, an impairment charge equal to the difference is recorded.
At December 31, 2009, 2008 and 2007, the fair value of each of our reporting units exceeded the carrying value of its net assets (i.e., step one of the impairment test). As a result, we were not required to conduct the second step of the impairment test. See Note 13, Intangible Franchise Rights and Goodwill, for additional details regarding our goodwill.
Intangible Franchise Rights. Our only significant identifiable intangible assets, other than goodwill, are rights under franchise agreements with manufacturers, which are recorded at an individual dealership level. We expect these franchise agreements to continue for an indefinite period and, when these agreements do not have indefinite terms, we believe that renewal of these agreements can be obtained without substantial cost. As such, we believe that our franchise agreements will contribute to cash flows for an indefinite period and, therefore, the carrying amount of franchise rights are not amortized. Franchise rights acquired in business acquisitions prior to July 1, 2001, were recorded and amortized as part of goodwill and remain as part of goodwill at December 31, 2009 and 2008 in the accompanying Consolidated Balance Sheets. Since July 1, 2001, intangible franchise rights acquired in business combinations have been recorded as distinctly separate intangible assets and, in accordance with guidance primarily codified within ASC Topic No. 350, Intangibles Goodwill and Other (ASC 350), we evaluate these franchise rights for impairment annually, or more frequently if events or circumstances indicate possible impairment has occurred.
To test the carrying value of each individual franchise right for impairment, we use a discounted cash flow based approach. Included in this analysis are assumptions, at a dealership level, regarding the cash flows directly attributable to the franchise right, revenue growth rates, future gross margins and future SG&A expenses. Using an estimated WACC, estimated residual values at the end of the forecast period and future capital expenditure requirements, we calculate the fair value of each dealerships franchise rights after considering estimated values for tangible assets, working capital and workforce. Accordingly, we have concluded that these valuation inputs qualify intangible franchise rights to be categorized within Level 3 of the ASC 820 hierarchy framework (See Note 16, Fair Value Measurements).
If any one of the above assumptions change or fails to materialize, the resulting decline in the intangible franchise rights estimated fair value could result in an additional impairment charge to the intangible franchise right associated with the applicable dealership. See Note 10, Asset Impairments, and Note 13, Intangible Franchise Rights and Goodwill, for additional details regarding our intangible franchise rights.
Retail Finance, Insurance and Vehicle Service Contract Revenues Recognition. Revenues from vehicle sales, parts sales and vehicle service are recognized upon completion of the sale and delivery to the customer. Conditions to completing a sale include having an agreement with the customer, including pricing, and the sales price must be reasonably expected to be collected.
We record the profit we receive for arranging vehicle fleet transactions net in other finance and insurance revenues, net. Since all sales of new vehicles must occur through franchised new vehicle dealerships, the dealerships effectively act as agents for the automobile manufacturers in completing sales of vehicles to fleet customers. As these customers typically order the vehicles, we have no significant general inventory risk. Additionally, fleet customers generally receive special purchase incentives from the automobile manufacturers and we receive only a nominal fee for facilitating the transactions. Taxes collected from customers and remitted to governmental agencies are not included in total revenues.
We arrange financing for customers through various institutions and receive financing fees based on the difference between the loan rates charged to customers and predetermined financing rates set by the financing institution. In addition, we receive fees from the sale of insurance and vehicle service contracts to customers. Further, through agreements with certain vehicle service contract administrators, we earn volume incentive rebates and interest income on reserves, as well as participate in the underwriting profits of the products.
We may be charged back for unearned financing, insurance contract or vehicle service contract fees in the event of early termination of the contracts by customers. Revenues from these fees are recorded at the time of the sale of the vehicles and a reserve for future amounts which might be charged back is established based on our historical chargeback results and the termination provisions of the applicable contracts. While chargeback results vary depending on the type of contract sold, a 10% change in the historical chargeback results used in determining estimates of future amounts which might be charged back would have changed the reserve at December 31, 2009, by $1.5 million.
We consolidate the operations of our reinsurance companies. We reinsure the credit life and accident and health insurance policies sold by our dealerships. All of the revenues and related direct costs from the sales of these policies are deferred and recognized over the life of the policies. During 2008, we terminated our offerings of credit life and accident and health insurance policies. Investment of the net assets of these companies are regulated by state insurance commissions and consist of permitted investments, in general, government-backed securities and obligations of government agencies. These investments are classified as available-for-sale and are carried at fair value. These investments, along with restricted cash that is not invested, are classified as other long-term assets in the accompanying consolidated balance sheets.
Self-Insured Property and Casualty Reserves. We purchase insurance policies for workers compensation, liability, auto physical damage, property, pollution, employee medical benefits and other risks consisting of large deductibles and/or self insured retentions.
We engage a third-party actuary to conduct a study of the exposures under the self-insured portion of our workers compensation and general liability insurance programs for all open policy years. This actuarial study is updated on an annual basis, and the appropriate adjustments are made to the accrual. Actuarial estimates for the portion of claims not covered by insurance are based on historical claims experience adjusted for loss trending and loss development factors. Changes in the frequency or severity of claims from historical levels could influence our reserve for claims and our financial position, results of operations and cash flows. A 10% change in the actuarially determined loss rate per employee used in determining our estimate of future losses would have changed the reserve for these losses at December 31, 2009, by $0.6 million.
For workers compensation and general liability insurance policy years ended prior to October 31, 2005, this component of our insurance program included aggregate retention (stop loss) limits in addition to a per claim deductible limit (the Stop Loss Plans). Due to historical experience in both claims frequency and severity, the likelihood of breaching the aggregate retention limits described above was deemed remote, and as such, we elected not to purchase this stop loss coverage for the policy year beginning November 1, 2005 and for each subsequent year (the No Stop Loss Plans). Our exposure per claim under the No Stop Loss Plans is limited to $1.0 million per occurrence, with unlimited exposure on the number of claims up to $1.0 million that we may incur.
Our maximum potential exposure under all of the Stop Loss Plans originally totaled $42.9 million, before consideration of amounts previously paid or accruals recorded related to our loss projections. After consideration of the amounts paid or accrued, the remaining potential loss exposure under the Stop Loss Plans totals $12.6 million at December 31, 2009.
Fair Value of Financial Assets and Liabilities. Our financial instruments consist primarily of cash and cash equivalents, contracts-in-transit and vehicle receivables, accounts and notes receivable, investments in debt and equity securities, accounts payable, credit facilities, long-term debt and interest rate swaps. The fair values of cash and cash equivalents, contracts-in-transit and vehicle receivables, accounts and notes receivable, accounts payable, and credit facilities approximate their carrying values due to the short-term nature of these instruments or the existence of variable interest rates. Our investments in debt and equity securities are classified as available-for-sale securities and thus are carried at fair market value. As of December 31, 2009 and 2008, the face value of our outstanding 8.25% Senior Subordinated Notes due 2013 (8.25% Notes) was $74.6 million. The 8.25% Notes had a carrying value, net of applicable discount, of $73.3 million and $73.0 million as of December 31, 2009 and 2008, respectively, and a fair value, based on quoted market prices, of $72.4 million and $48.9 million, respectively. Also, as of December 31, 2009 and 2008, the face value of our outstanding 2.25% Notes was $182.8 million and $224.5 million, respectively. The 2.25% Notes had a carrying value, net of applicable discount, of $131.9 million and $155.3 million, respectively, and a fair value, based on quoted market prices, of $143.5 million and
$95.1 million as of December 31, 2009 and 2008, respectively. Our derivative financial instruments are recorded at fair market value. See Notes 4 and 16 for further details regarding our derivative financial instruments and fair value measurements.
We maintain multiple trust accounts comprised of money market funds with short-term investments in marketable securities, such as U.S. government securities, commercial paper and bankers acceptances, that have maturities of less than three months. Also within the trust accounts, we hold investments in debt instruments, such as government obligations and other fixed income securities. We account for investments in marketable securities and debt instruments under guidance primarily codified within ASC Topic No. 320, Investments-Debt and Equity Securities (ASC 320), which establishes standards of financial accounting and reporting for investments in equity instruments that have readily determinable fair values and for all investments in debt securities. These investments are designated as available-for-sale, measured at fair value and classified as either cash and cash equivalents or other assets in the accompanying Consolidated Balance Sheets based upon maturity terms and certain contractual restrictions. As these investments are fairly liquid, we believe our fair value techniques accurately reflect their market values and are subject to changes that are market driven and subject to demand and supply of the financial instrument markets. The valuation measurement inputs of these marketable securities represent unadjusted quoted prices in active markets and, accordingly, has classified such investments within Level 1 of the ASC 820 hierarchy framework in Note 16. The debt securities are measured based upon quoted market prices utilizing public information, independent external valuations from pricing services or third-party advisors. Accordingly, we have concluded the valuation measurement inputs of these debt securities to represent, at their lowest level, quoted market prices for identical or similar assets in markets where there are few transactions for the assets and have categorized such investments within Level 2 of the ASC 820 hierarchy framework in Note 16. The cost basis of the debt securities as of December 31, 2009 and 2008 was $5.6 million and $7.6 million, respectively.
Fair Value of Assets Acquired and Liabilities Assumed. The values of assets acquired and liabilities assumed in business combinations are estimated using various assumptions. The most significant assumptions, and those requiring the most judgment, involve the estimated fair values of property and equipment and intangible franchise rights, with the remaining attributable to goodwill, if any. We utilize third-party experts to determine the fair values of property and equipment purchased.
Income Taxes. Currently, we operate in 15 different states in the U.S. and in the U.K., each of which has unique tax rates and payment calculations. As the amount of income generated in each jurisdiction varies from period to period, our estimated effective tax rate can vary based on the proportion of taxable income generated in each jurisdiction.
We follow the liability method of accounting for income taxes in accordance with ASC Topic No. 740, Income Taxes (ASC 740). Under this method, deferred income taxes are recorded based on differences between the financial reporting and tax basis of assets and liabilities and are measured using the enacted tax rates and laws that will be in effect when the underlying assets are realized or liabilities are settled. A valuation allowance reduces deferred tax assets when it is more likely than not that some or all of the deferred tax assets will not be realized.
Effective January 1, 2007, the FASB clarified the criteria that an individual tax position must satisfy for some or all of the benefits of that position to be recognized in a companys financial statements. This guidance prescribes a recognition threshold of more-likely-than-not, and a measurement attribute for all tax positions taken or expected to be taken on a tax return, in order to be recognized in the financial statements (see Note 9 for additional information). No cumulative adjustment was required to effect the adoption of this pronouncement.
We have recognized deferred tax assets, net of valuation allowances, that we believe will be realized, based primarily on the assumption of future taxable income. As it relates to net operating losses, a corresponding valuation allowance has been established to the extent that we have determined that net income attributable to certain states jurisdictions will not be sufficient to realize the benefit.
Results of Operations
The Same Store amounts presented below include the results of dealerships for the identical months in each period presented in the comparison, commencing with the first full month in which the dealership was owned by us
and, in the case of dispositions, ending with the last full month it was owned by us. For example, for a dealership acquired in June 2008, the results from this dealership will appear in our Same Store comparison beginning in 2009 for the period July 2009 through December 2009, when comparing to July 2008 through December 2008 results. Depending on the periods being compared, the dealerships included in Same Store will vary. For this reason, the 2008 Same Store results that are compared to 2009 differ from those used in the comparison to 2007. Same Store results also include the activities of our corporate headquarters.
The following table summarizes our combined Same Store results for the year ended December 31, 2009 as compared to 2008 and for the year ended December 31, 2008 compared to 2007.
Total Same Store Data
(dollars in thousands, except per unit amounts)
The discussion that follows provides explanation for the variances noted above. In addition, each table presents by primary income statement line item comparative financial and non-financial data of our Same Store locations, those locations acquired or disposed of (Transactions) during the periods and the consolidated company for the years ended December 31, 2009, 2008 and 2007.
New Vehicle Retail Data
(dollars in thousands, except per unit amounts)
The following table sets forth our Same Store new vehicle retail sales volume by manufacturer:
Same Store New Vehicle Unit Sales
The following table sets forth our top 10 Same Store brands, based on retail unit sales volume, and the percentage changes from year to year, which we believe are generally consistent with the overall retail market performance of those brands in the areas where we operate:
Same Store New Vehicle Unit Sales
For the year ended December 31, 2009, Same Store new vehicle unit sales and revenues declined 23.9% and 24.2%, respectively, as compared to the corresponding period in 2008, which was generally consistent with industry declines. The combination of slowing economic conditions, declining consumer confidence, higher jobless rates, tightened credit standards and industry wide pressure to lower vehicle inventory levels led to lower sales and extremely competitive pricing. Partially offsetting these negative economic conditions throughout 2009 was the impact of the CARS program, which had a positive effect on our third quarter results. We sold 4,874 qualifying new vehicle units under the CARS program.
We experienced unit sales decreases in each of the major brands that we represent. Our retail car unit sales declined by 22.7% in 2009, while our retail truck unit sales declined by 25.6%, as compared with the same period in 2008. We believe that our performance is generally consistent with national retail results of the brands we represent and the overall markets in which we operate. The level of retail sales, as well as our own ability to retain or grow market share during future periods, is difficult to predict.
Our Same Store new vehicle revenues declined 16.8% from 2007 to 2008, on a similar percentage decrease in Same Store retail unit sales. Slowing economic conditions and declining consumer confidence impacted overall new vehicle demand in the U.S. And, on a regional basis, we experienced weakness particularly in the California and Florida markets. Our predominantly car franchises were negatively impacted by the slowing economy in 2008 resulting in an aggregate decrease in unit sales of cars by 11.8% from 2007 levels. Same Store revenues from our import and luxury brands fell 12.8% and 12.6% from 2007 to 2008, on 13.1% and 8.5% less retail units, respectively. Further, during most of 2008, customer preferences shifted away from less fuel-efficient vehicles and as a result, most segments of our new vehicle business were negatively impacted. Our Same Store unit sales in our truck lines decreased 21.1% from 2007 to 2008. Same Store revenues from our truck-heavy domestic franchises were down 30.1% from 2007 to 2008.
Our Same Store gross margin on new vehicle retail sales decreased 20 basis points from 2008 to 2009. The rapid fall-off in demand across the nation led to significant build-ups of new vehicle inventories across all brands, putting significant pressure on margins in the first half of 2009. In addition the bankruptcies of Chrysler and General Motors further pressured margins as dealers moved aggressively to reduce their inventories of these brands. For the year ended December 31, 2009 compared to 2008, our Same Store gross profit per retail unit (PRU) declined 4.6%
to $1,855, representing a 14.1% decrease for our domestic brands and a 6.2% decline for our luxury brands. Gross profit per retail unit sold for our import brands in 2009 was consistent with prior year.
Our Same Store gross margin on new vehicle retail sales decreased 40 basis points from 2007 to 2008. Depressed economic conditions in many of the markets in which we operate were exacerbated by the financial crises of September 2008 and following. As a result, we experienced a decline in new vehicle sales that pressured our margins. We experienced a decrease in Same Store new vehicle gross margin in most of our major brands. Further depressing new vehicle margins in 2008 was the shift in customer preference towards more fuel-efficient vehicles during most of the year, which largely affected our truck-dependent domestic brands, as well as the truck lines of our import brands. For the year ended December 31, 2008 compared to 2007, our Same Store gross profit per retail unit (PRU) declined 7.1% to $1,882, representing a 13.6% decline in PRU for our domestic nameplates, a 10.0% decrease in PRU for our luxury brands and a 3.6% decline in PRU from our import nameplates.
Most manufacturers offer interest assistance to offset floorplan interest charges incurred in connection with inventory purchases. This assistance varies by manufacturer, but generally provides for a defined amount regardless of our actual floorplan interest rate or the length of time for which the inventory is financed. The amount of interest assistance we recognize in a given period is primarily a function of: (1) the mix of units being sold, as domestic brands tend to provide more assistance, (2) the specific terms of the respective manufacturers interest assistance programs and market interest rates, (3) the average wholesale price of inventory sold, and (4) our rate of inventory turn. To further mitigate our exposure to interest rate fluctuations, we have entered into interest rate swaps with an aggregate notional amount of $550.0 million as of December 31, 2009, at a weighted average LIBOR interest rate of 4.7%. We record the majority of the impact of the periodic settlements of these swaps as a component of floorplan interest expense, effectively hedging a substantial portion of our total floorplan interest expense and mitigating the impact of interest rate fluctuations. As a result, in this declining interest rate environment, our interest assistance recognized as a percent of total floorplan interest expense has declined. Over the past three years, this assistance as a percentage of our total consolidated floorplan interest expense has ranged from 87.0% in the third quarter of 2007 to 49.9% in the fourth quarter of 2008. We record these incentives as a reduction of new vehicle cost of sales as the vehicles are sold, which therefore impact the gross profit and gross margin detailed above. The total assistance recognized in cost of goods sold during the years ended December 31, 2009, 2008 and 2007, was $20.0 million, $28.3 million and $37.2 million, respectively.
We continue to aggressively manage our new vehicle inventory in response to the rapidly changing market conditions. As a result, and coupled with the success of the CARS program in the third quarter of 2009, we reduced our new vehicle inventory levels by $264.8 million, or 38.2%, from $692.7 million as of December 31, 2008 to $427.9 million as of December 31, 2009. Further, we made significant progress in aligning our inventory mix with demand, as the new truck percentage of inventory declined from 46.4% as of December 31, 2008 to 33.5% as of December 31, 2009.
Finally, our consolidated days supply of new vehicle inventory decreased to 56 days at December 31, 2009 from 94 days at December 31, 2008.
(dollars in thousands, except per unit amounts)
(dollars in thousands, except per unit amounts)
Total Used Vehicle Data
(dollars in thousands, except per unit amounts)
In addition to factors such as general economic conditions and consumer confidence, our used vehicle business is affected by the level of manufacturer incentives on new vehicles and new vehicle financing, the number and quality of trade-ins and lease turn-ins, the availability of consumer credit and our ability to effectively manage the level and quality of our overall used vehicle inventory. The same economic and consumer confidence issues that have slowed our new vehicle business have also negatively impacted used vehicle sales, and as a result our Same Store used retail unit sales and revenues declined 11.3% and 9.9%, respectively, in 2009 as compared to 2008. Further, since the new vehicle business is our best source of used vehicle inventory and that business has suffered a sustained slowdown, we are more challenged to source used vehicles profitably for our customers. And, even though the CARS program resulted in an influx of new vehicle customers during the third quarter of 2009, sourcing of used retail inventory was not improved due to the nature of the CARS program, which required all trade-ins to be destroyed. Despite the challenging economic times, we continue to improve our certified pre-owned (CPO) volume as a percentage of total retail sales. CPO units represented 33.3% of total Same Store used retail units for 2009 as compared to 32.8% in 2008. As a result, our Same Store retail used vehicle gross profit PRU decreased 2.5% from $1,855 in 2008 to $1,808 in 2009, while our Same Store gross margin decreased 40 basis points over the same period.
Our Same Store retail unit sales decreased 6.6% from 2007 to 2008, to 59,835 units and Same Store retail revenues fell 7.9%. Pressure on new vehicle margins translated into pressure on used vehicle margins, as well. In addition, the shift in customer preferences away from trucks in 2008 placed added pressure on our retail used vehicle profits. As a result, our Same Store retail used vehicle PRU declined 9.0% from $2,011 in 2007 to $1,831 in 2008, while our Same Store gross margin shrank 90 basis points over the same period.
Our continued focus on used vehicle sales and inventory management processes coupled with the lack of availability of used vehicles industry wide has shifted more of our used vehicle sales mix from the wholesale business to the traditionally more profitable retail sales. In addition, the qualified trade-ins under the CARS
program were required to be destroyed, further depressing our used wholesale business. Correspondingly, our Same Store wholesale unit sales decreased 23.3% from 2008 to 2009 to 27,654 units, while Same Store wholesale revenues decreased 33.6% to $152.0 million for the same period. For the year ended December 31, 2008, compared to 2007, Same Store wholesale unit sales decreased 18.1% to 35,607 units and Same Store wholesale revenues fell 28.4% to $217.5 million, primarily due to our inventory management processes.
The overall increase in used vehicle profits for 2009 was reflective of an improvement in used vehicle wholesale values, resulting from a general supply shortage and increased dealer demand, partially offset by lower retail results. Because of the limited availability of quality used vehicles, the price of vehicles sold at auction increased, leading to higher profits and margins in our wholesale vehicles. Assuming that the stabilization of used vehicle values continues and used vehicle supply catches up with demand, we would expect the wholesale gross profit per unit to return to more normal levels, closer to break-even.
We continuously work to optimize our used vehicle inventory levels to provide adequate supply and selection. Our days supply of used vehicle inventory increased to 31 days at December 31, 2009 from 25 days from December 31, 2008. This was a decrease from 35 days at December 31, 2007.
(dollars in thousands)