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Dealers Continue to Find Climate Ripe for Acquisitions

Recent Moves Include Both Commercial and Retail Assets

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Sun Auto Tire & Service Inc. recently acquired Toscalito Tire & Automotive, a five-store business with 33 service bays in California.

| Photo Credit: Sun Auto Tire

Uncertainty in the economy hasn’t stymied the efforts of independent tire dealers looking for acquisition opportunities. In the fourth quarter, dealerships both big and small have continued to close deals and invest in expanding their footprints.

One of the most active buyers in the last 12 months has been Percheron Capital/ Big Brand Tire & Service. Its most recent additions include the assets of AA Auto and Christenson Auto, both of which have locations throughout Nevada. The deal includes more than 15 stores and expands the company’s reach in the southwestern U.S.

In the 18 months Percheron Capital has owned Big Brand Tire, the company has grown the original Big Brand business ten-fold, from 20 locations to 201.

Sun Auto Tire & Service Inc. has continued its growth streak, too, picking up 29 locations in three states with a recent pair of acquisitions. The additions include the company’s move into its 18th state. Most recently, Sun Auto Tire bought TGK Automotive Specialists, a 24-store business primarily based in Minnesota, which also has one location in Arizona. This deal marks Sun Auto Tire’s entrance into the Minnesota market.

Collectively, TGK Automotive Specialists operates 183 bays and includes 237 employees who are joining Sun Auto Tire. The second acquisition involves Toscalito Tire & Automotive, a five-store business with 33 service bays in California. By completing these deals, Sun Auto Tire has grown to operate 413 stores throughout 18 states.

“We’re excited to be expanding the Sun Auto family of brands with our first locations in Minnesota, while continuing to grow our existing presence in Arizona and California,” says Sun Auto Tire Vice President of Development Chris Garman. “The TGK Automotive Specialists and Toscalito Tire & Automotive brands have been serving their communities and providing the highest quality of service for years, which we will maintain throughout this transition and onward.”

In another retail-focused move, Chapel Hill Tire has acquired Bull Tire and Service, a Cary, N.C.-based tire dealership. The purchase gives Chapel Hill nine locations throughout North Carolina. Bull Tire is Chapel Hill’s eighth acquisition.

“We are going to try and retain as much of the staff as possible,” says Chapel Hill Tire President Marc Pons. “We’ve got a great reputation for retaining staff in our previous acquisitions and we intend to do the same here.

“We’re really proud of the culture we have here,” he adds. “We believe that employees will only treat customers up to the level that they’re treated.

“So if we want to foster outstanding customer experiences, we need our employees to feel cared for. We go the extra mile for them so they’ll go the extra mile for our customers.”

There are moves happening in the commercial truck tire market, as well.

Norwell, Mass.-based Sullivan Tire Co. Inc. purchased both the retail and commercial operations of Central Tire in Sanford and Shawmut, Maine. The deals closed in October. Sanford’s retail center increases the number of Sullivan Tire’s retail locations to a total of 78 throughout New England.

With commercial locations in both Sanford and Shawmut, Sullivan Tire’s commercial network now spans 17 service centers.

Central Tire’s Sanford location spans 19,118 square feet, including a commercial tire service area and seven service bays for retail. The Shawmut location measures 10,000 square feet and will provide a full line of tires and tire service for commercial vehicles.

“We are excited and honored to welcome the Central Tire family to the Sullivan Tire family and look forward to continuing the great customer service they have provided to both their retail and commercial customers for more than 70 years,” says Paul Sullivan, vice president of marketing, Sullivan Tire.

On the opposite end of the country, Commercial Tire Inc., which is based in Meridian, Idaho, has bought two of the final pieces of the GCR Tires & Service business from Bridgestone Americas Inc. Commercial Tire has acquired a commercial location and retread plant in Spokane, Wash. Bridgestone confirmed the sale to Commercial Tire, which prior to the deal had 15 commercial locations, 27 combined retail/commercial stores and three retread plants.

Bridgestone is retaining nine GCR stores and two retread plants. They will be part of the tiremaker’s new GCR Mining business operation.

In addition to Commercial Tire’s purchase of a GCR store and retread plant, the country’s biggest independent commercial tire dealership recently acquired more than two dozen GCR locations. The company, Southern Tire Mart LLC, which is based in Columbia, Miss., bought 26 GCR stores and five retread plants.

Pomp’s Tire Service Inc., which is headquartered in Green Bay, Wis., also recently purchased some GCR locations.

The deals are part of an ongoing effort to strengthen Bridgestone’s commercial service network in the U.S.

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