Finish of a Automotive-Promoting Period as AutoNation’s Chief Steps Down
For many years, automotive dealerships have been largely family-owned native companies with little hope of pushing again towards producers.
In his almost twenty years because the chief government and chairman of AutoNation, Mike Jackson is credited with altering that — and exhibiting that a big, publicly traded firm could make it within the enterprise of promoting automobiles.
On Wednesday, Mr. Jackson, 69, introduced that he would step down as chief government subsequent 12 months, ending one of many longest management tenures amongst Fortune 500 executives.
Though AutoNation has run into headwinds because the auto market has softened after its 2016 peak, it’s the nation’s largest chain of automotive dealerships and the main vendor of manufacturers together with Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota.
“He’s the pioneer,” mentioned Wes Lutz, proprietor of a Chrysler Dodge Jeep franchise in Jackson, Mich., and chairman of the Nationwide Car Sellers Affiliation. “If it weren’t for Mike Jackson, Warren Buffett wouldn’t be in auto retail.”
The AutoNation board has begun a seek for a successor. Mr. Jackson, who will keep on as chairman, is abstaining from the method. The brand new chief government will more than likely take the helm within the first half of 2019.
In an interview, Mr. Jackson mentioned he remained “fully engaged” within the enterprise. “I’m still running AutoNation as chairman, C.E.O. and president, building the brand,” he mentioned. “It is all-consuming.”
Mr. Jackson grew up in New Jersey and studied political science. When his Mercedes SL broke down in Massachusetts on his honeymoon, he scrounged a job as a mechanic to pay for the repairs. He later joined a small chain of dealerships promoting quite a lot of manufacturers and labored his method as much as change into a companion. He then jumped to the USA operations of Mercedes-Benz, serving as its chief for 4 years.
In 1999, he was employed to repair AutoNation by its founder, H. Wayne Huizenga, the billionaire who additionally began the Blockbuster video retailer chain and Waste Administration. On the time, AutoNation was struggling, and lots of doubted that huge dealership chains may compete towards native sellers deeply rooted of their communities.
Mr. Jackson instantly closed 23 huge used-car operations and laid off 1,800 individuals, then consolidated back-office operations to chop prices. Later, he scrapped the native names that the corporate’s retailers had been utilizing and branded all of them with AutoNation.
In the present day, AutoNation is a series of 325 places within the South and West. Along with Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota, AutoNation is the most important retailer of manufacturers together with Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Honda. In 2017, AutoNation franchises bought 329,000 new automobiles.
Backed by AutoNation’s heft, Mr. Jackson emerged as a strong voice in a position to problem the carmakers in a method that smaller sellers couldn’t.
On the 2007 North American Worldwide Auto Present in Detroit, he mentioned, he bought right into a shouting match with Rick Wagoner, then chief government of Basic Motors. Irritated that G.M. was pressuring sellers to take extra stock than they might promote profitably, Mr. Jackson snapped, “You’re not going to stuff me like a Thanksgiving turkey!”
A number of years later, he introduced that AutoNation would promote no used automobiles with unfixed recall points, breaking from the trade’s customary apply on the time.
“Mike Jackson is not afraid to call out the manufacturers when they should be called out,” mentioned Mike Ramsey, an auto analyst at Gartner. “He’s so big, they can’t just say, ‘Sit down, Mike.’”
Because the auto trade bounced again from the recession, AutoNation’s personal fortunes rose. In July 2015, it was buying and selling at greater than $65 a share. Its shares tumbled initially of 2016, nonetheless, and have lagged its friends since. Shares closed Tuesday at $43, having misplaced a 3rd of their worth from a peak of $62 that ended a short surge in January.
In the course of the trade’s deep recession, Mr. Jackson shaped a friendship with Sergio Marchionne, the chief government who led Fiat’s acquisition of Chrysler out of chapter. The 2 shared personal dinners throughout the Detroit auto present, and Mr. Marchionne hosted Mr. Jackson at Components One races in Monte Carlo.
“Sergio would take us through the garages, and he was just in his element,” Mr. Jackson mentioned.
Mr. Jackson referred to as them “staggering, shocking losses,” and famous that Mr. Marchionne, too, was scheduled to retire in 2019.
Though Mr. Jackson mentioned he had no particular plans for retirement, he mentioned he would stay energetic in AutoNation’s Drive Pink breast most cancers analysis marketing campaign, to which the corporate has donated $15 million since 2014 and promotes with the pink license plate frames that franchises affix to each new automobile they promote.
After 20 years working AutoNation, he mentioned, “it’s time for a new chapter.”