Reporting Al Sunshine
FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) — One of South Florida’s best known corporate brands is changing names here and across the country but local customers shouldn’t notice any difference when they decide who they’re gonna call.
Ft. Lauderdale-based AutoNation is rebranding hundreds of its dealerships nationwide under its own logo.
Here in South Florida, that means the Maroone signs are coming down and the AutoNation signs are going up.
As the country’s biggest dealership group, AutoNation operates under some 3 dozen different names around the country. In South Florida, they’ve operated under the Maroone brand for years. The switch starts Friday in South Florida and next week in Houston and Dallas.
But as a major player in the country’s auto industry, executives realized the time had come to consolidate the national brand under one identity.
“It’s always about customers, the associates, the shareholders, the manufacturers and that’s who comes first,” said Mike Maroone, President AutoNation. “And this is absolutely the best thing for every constituency”.
Auto analysts said the move will expand AutoNation’s edge, because no other U.S. dealership group will come close in branding. AutoNation will have 210 new-vehicle franchises, or about 180 stores, under its name by July.
AutoNation just released its 4th quarter earnings and despite continuing “bumps” in the national economy they say last year was still a record breaker for them.
Revenues jumped 13 percent to $4.2 billion. And profits from continuing operations soared 17 percent to $83 million for the fourth quarter.
In the coming months, AutoNation will spend $18 million to promote the name change. It will now be able to run the same iconic ad in 15 separate markets set to the Ghostbusters tune, starting with “Who you gonna call?’ and ending not with a dealers name but with AutoNation.
It’s a big deal for CEO Mike Jackson, who is a car guy who likes Formula 1 racing, auto shows and just about everything on wheels. Jackson started the company from the ground up.
“We are the biggest dealership group in the country. Nobody sells more new vehicles, new and used vehicles than we do and we go from coast to coast. I think when you start literally sweeping the floor you never forget it. Actually my first job in transportation was as a stable boy shoveling horse manure, so there you go,” said Jackson.
The Philadelphia native graduated from St. Josephs’ University and grew up in professionally in the Northeast. He came to South Florida in 1999 after being recruited by Wayne Huizenga to head up his new auto business based out of Ft. Lauderdale.
Jacksons’ career has taken him from service bays to boardrooms, all the way to becoming the head of Mercedes Benz USA.
The Ft. Lauderdale resident said, “It’s now over 40 years and you couldn’t start any lower as an apprentice mechanic. Here’s a screwdriver to work with it we’ll trust you with a wrench next year, so I’ve seen it all done it all from retail, through manufacturers, I love this business,” he said.
Jackson helped steer AutoNation into the Fortune 500 ranks with almost $16 billion dollars in revenue last year.
He’s active in local community groups, and is a business advisor to the local Federal Reserve branch.
He also serves on the Presidents’ automotive task force.
He’s bullish on the future of the national economy and South Florida’s’ economic rebound and believes “For all the difficulties in the economy, there are some genuine bright spots. Housing has found a bottom and is turning, that’s very positive for the economy and the auto industry. Florida’s ready to turn, the worst is over in Florida, we’re on the way back up,” said Jackson.
And like any good C-E-O, he’s focused on what’s heading his way in the future and getting his company ready for it.
“I’m convinced that we can even be more successful,” he said.