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Penske buys Crevier BMW in Santa Ana

Auto retailing giant Penske Automotive Group Inc. has bought the Crevier BMW and Mini franchises in Santa Ana.

The acquisition, announced Tuesday, represents a move by the dealer chain to increase its presence in Southern California and in the luxury segment of the auto business.

Over several decades, the Crevier family has built the dealership into one of the nation’s largest BMW centers and recently set off a local advertising war by trumpeting the store’s amenities, especially a putting green that customers can use while their vehicle is serviced.

The prominence of the putting green, a restaurant and a BMW car museum in Crevier’s advertising campaign prompted other Southern California BMW centers to snipe back, saying in their ads that they are focused on cars rather than golf.

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But the marketing banter didn’t dissuade Penske’s interest in Crevier, which is near Penske’s Audi and Volkswagen franchises in the same auto mall. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“These franchises represent an outstanding opportunity to grow our footprint in Orange County,” said George W. Brochick, executive vice president of Penske’s western region.

Penske has a good track record of buying and improving European luxury auto franchises, said Jeremy Anwyl, chief executive of auto information company Edmunds.com.

“The profit with these European imports right now is pretty strong, and BMW may be the best-selling luxury automaker in the U.S. this year,” Anwyl said. “Penske wants to double down and do more with this segment.”

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Crevier, with about $275 million in annual sales, is Penske’s 11th BMW dealership. The complex covers 12 acres, with nearly 100,000 square feet of facilities, including 62 service bays and a five-story, 195,000-square-foot parking structure.

Last year, Crevier BMW was the fifth-largest seller of BMWs in the U.S. and one of the biggest sellers of used BMWs.

After the market for car dealerships came to a near standstill from 2008 through 2010, the pace of sales of healthy car franchises such as Crevier has increased, said Shane Dever, managing director of Presidio Group, the investment bank that managed the transaction.

“The market was closed for several years, so now there is a pent-up supply of dealers looking to exit,” Dever said.

Dealerships are selling at about twice the rate they did a year ago, he said.

As a demographic, the owners of independent dealerships are reaching retirement age.

“The recession reminded these owners that liquidity and diversification are important in their personal portfolios,” Dever said.

And strong profits over the last year for the better-managed dealerships have driven up the price of the franchises, he said.

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Based in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Penske is headed by former race car driver Roger S. Penske. The company has 170 auto franchises in the U.S. and 154 overseas, mostly in Britain.

jerry.hirsch@latimes.com


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