The nation’s fourth-largest auto retailer continues building its presence in Santa Fe and Albuquerque with the Dec. 9 acquisition of the Lexus dealerships in both cities for an undisclosed price.
Houston-based Group 1 Automotive acquired Lexus of Santa Fe and Lexus of Albuquerque from Tom Bohlman and Don Mackey, who had owned the Albuquerque dealership since 1999. Bohlman and Mackey opened Lexus of Santa Fe on the south end of Cerrillos Road in 2010.
Group 1 on July 8 bought the Santa Fe BMW auto and motorcycle dealerships, Santa Fe MINI and Sandia BMW from Mike and Debbie Houx, who were retiring and whom Pete DeLongchamps, Group 1’s senior vice president of manufacturer relations, financial services and public affairs, knew well.
“We had our eyes on the Lexus dealership,” DeLongchamps said. “They don’t change hands often. After we did the BMW deal, it became obvious that we would be the acquirer of Lexus.”
Group 1 now owns nine dealerships in New Mexico, including the Jaguar, Land Rover, Lexus, MINI and BMW stores in Albuquerque and Santa Fe BMW, 2578 Camino Entrada; Land Rover Santa Fe, 2582 Camino Entrada; Lexus of Santa Fe, 6824 Cerrillos Road; and Santa Fe MINI, 2544 Camino Ortiz.
Bohlman remains as general manager of the Albuquerque dealership and collaborates with Santa Fe general manager Michael Gomez.
“I’m not a mom-and-pop shop anymore,” Bohlman said. “I’m part of a huge organization. … The bottom line is, I’m learning all over again. I’m flat out excited.”
Group 1 already has installed new computer and phone systems at the Lexus dealerships. In January, the local dealerships for the first time will open Saturdays for repair service, a practice Group 1 has been trying out with success in other states, Bohlman said.
The two dealerships have 60 technicians and 132 total employees, up from 18 employees 20 years ago.
More Group 1 innovations will come to New Mexico’s only Lexus dealerships.
“There’s a variety of ways we can continue to spoil the customers in Santa Fe,” Bohlman said without elaborating.
Bohlman now can just operate a car dealership without the headaches of ownership, though he can operate with a free hand.
“We want general managers to be like the owners,” said DeLongchamps. “His business should get better. We have the scale of insurance and financing.”
DeLongchamps said staffing and operations should remain the same at the Lexus dealerships.
Bohlman and Mackey had been seeking a buyer through a broker Group 1 knew well. Mackey is 11 years older than Bohlman, 65, and Mackey, who lives in Arizona, had controlling interest in the Lexus dealerships in New Mexico.
“He has other interests,” Bohlman said. “He thought it was time to sell.”
These stores in Santa Fe and Albuquerque are expected to generate approximately $90 million in annualized revenues, he said.
Group 1 entered New Mexico, the company’s 15th state, in 2017 by acquiring the Land Rover dealerships in Santa Fe and Albuquerque and Jaguar Albuquerque. These were Group 1’s first Land Rover and Jaguar dealerships in the U.S., though the company does have some in Great Britain.
Group 1 years ago had owned some dealerships in New Mexico but sold them, DeLongchamps said.
The auto retailing giant has 118 dealerships in 15 states scattered in the South, Midwest, mid-Atlantic and New England, with four dealerships in California and the New Mexico group the only ones in the Western states. The company had more in California but divested from several because of the high cost of doing business in the state, DeLongchamps said.
Including United Kingdom and Brazil dealership, Group 1 has 186 automotive dealerships, 242 franchises, and 49 collision centers.
“We know doing business in New Mexico is friendly,” he said. The New Mexico dealerships “are doing as expected. We are delighted with our investment.”
Group 1 is the nation’s fourth-largest auto retailer behind Penske Automotive Group, AutoNation and Lithia Motors. Group 1 and Lithia often alternate between No. 3 and No. 4. Lithia has a Santa Fe presence with Chrysler Jeep Dodge but no Penske or AutoNation dealerships are in New Mexico.
Group 1 was launched in Houston in 1997 and first expanded to Oklahoma, then acquired dealerships in Boston and Atlanta, building the patchwork of states in which the company now has a presence.