By Eliott Rodriguez

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – America’s largest automotive retailer is getting a new CEO.

Fort Lauderdale based AutoNation will be steered by a new boss after two decades under the stewardship of Mike Jackson, who has spent a lifetime in the automobile industry.

In a unanimous vote, the company’s Board of Directors has appointed Carl Liebert as the new Chief Executive Officer and President. He was also named to AutoNation’s Board of Directors, effective March 11th.

Liebert, a military veteran who has also served in leadership roles at The Home Depot and GE, most recently served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for USAA’s business operations functions, including USAA’s Bank, Investment, Life, Property and Casualty, Real Estate Investment Companies and member contact functions.

“This is a different animal for me and I want to make sure I learn from his experience, especially with manufacturers so I can connect the dots,” said Liebert.

When it comes to business, Liebert won’t stray far from AutoNation’s founder.

“There’s always going to be people smarter than you in this world but you can control how hard you work and you can outwork anybody. That was Wayne (Huizenga) right there and that’s what my dad said,” said Liebert.

Jackson has been Chairman and CEO of AutoNation for the past 20 years. He literally knows the automobile business from the ground up.

“I graduated from college and got an old and tired Mercedes which broke down. So I got a job as an apprentice mechanic to barter and trade getting my car fixed for my labor,” he told CBS4’s Eliott Rodriguez.

Jackson stuck with the car business, eventually heading AutoNation which has 300 dealerships, 26,000 employees and sells about 600,000 cars a year. It’s sold 12 million cars since it was founded by Jackson’s mentor – the late Wayne Huizenga.

“We became great friends. He was best man at my wedding. You couldn’t have a better friend or partner than Wayne Huizenga, he meant everything to me,” said Jackson.

Jackson may be stepping down, but he won’t be leaving the company. He’ll stay on as Executive Chairman of the Board for the next two years.

Eliott Rodriguez

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