Steele Auto Group of Dartmouth, N.S., continues to expand in the United States, looking past nationwide sales slumps and a surge in COVID-19 on both sides of the border.
The group on Tuesday said it acquired a Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram in Lockhart, Texas, and another in Gonzales, Texas. The stores are about 55 kilometres from each other and both are about 55 kilometres south of Austin and 115 kilometres east of San Antonio.
Steele purchased the two dealerships from the Benny Boyd Auto Group. Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.
Steele now owns three dealerships in Texas. It purchased its first U.S. store in February when it bought Luling Chevrolet-Buick-GMC in Luling, about 70 kilometres south of Austin.
The Boyd deal simply came calling.
The legal counsel Steele used to finalize the Luling deal is also the lawyer for Benny Boyd.
“Quite literally as we were boarding the flight back home, after we had completed the acquisition, we received a phone call,” Kim Day, president of Steele Auto Group, said. “He said ‘Geez, I have two dealerships in and around that area I might consider selling for the right price.’
“So that’s how that came to be. I think he just capitalized on an opportunity.”
It also helps that Rob Steele, CEO of Steele Auto Group, is intimately familiar with that region of Texas.
“Rob Steele has had a home in the area of Austin for several, several years. He enjoys Austin. He travels there a lot — although he hasn’t in the last nine months because of COVID. It’s a market he’s familiar with.”
And it’s growing. Fast.
“Texas is one of the fastest growing states in the U.S.,” Day said. “And the San Antonio and Austin corridor is growing at an even faster rate.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Austin saw the nation's fifth largest population increase over the past decade. It grew by 177,079 people between April 1, 2010, and July 1, 2019. Meanwhile, San Antonio ranked No. 3 on the list, with an increase of 221,092.
Lockhart is a bedroom community for Austin.
“The population in that area is simply going to grow exponentially over the next several years. So, it’s a great opportunity to be in a growing market,” Day said.
The two dealerships will be branded as Steele Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram Gonzales and Steele Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram Lockhart. Their names had already been changed on their respective websites by Tuesday evening.
Day said the pandemic didn’t hamper the deal, other than delaying a closing date.
“We had these acquisitions in the pipeline before COVID. We had already negotiated these deals,” Day said. “When everything started to go off the rails and COVID became a reality, we paused everything.”
The most recent Texas acquisitions were finalized just days after Steele Auto Group bought a pair of Mazda stores in Eastern Canada. Steele purchased Atlantic Mazda in Moncton and County Mazda in New Glasgow, N.S. on Nov. 30.
Rob Steele said in a statement that the New Glasgow store “complements our existing Subaru, Acura and Mercedes-Benz stores there.”
Steele Auto Group is now comprised of 45 auto dealerships, two Powerhouse Equipment stores and eight collision centres. The group employs more than 1,800 people.