Amid auto dealer consolidation trend, LaFontaine acquires Ralph Thayer Automotive

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News

LaFontaine Automotive Group on Thursday announced it has acquired Livonia-based Ralph Thayer Automotive, just the latest example of an accelerating consolidation trend among auto dealerships navigating a rapidly-changing industry.

LaFontaine itself has been on something of an acquisition spree. The group — which includes 44 retail franchises, six collision centers and 25 Michigan retail locations — bought Shuman Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Walled Lake and Delehanty Ford in Flushing in October, according to a news release.

And this latest deal comes on the heels of Lithia Motors Inc. acquiring the Troy-based Suburban Collection dealerships, connecting its 56 franchises to one of the largest auto retail networks in the country.

The Ralph Thayer Automotive team pictured with LaFontaine Automotive Group leaders.

As The Detroit News previously reported, smaller dealership operations — often aging family businesses — see an opportunity to cash out amid a historic transformation of the automotive industry, even as larger enterprises look to build scale so they can invest in new technologies.

"On behalf of my family and our passionate LaFontaine team, we are excited to welcome the employees and customers of Ralph Thayer Automotive into our LaFontaine family," Ryan LaFontaine, CEO of the group, said in a statement. "This strategic acquisition further strengthens our ability to serve customers in the greater Metro Detroit area — for sales, service, body shop and parts."

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. 

Ralph Thayer Automotive —a family-owned and operated dealership that has served customers in southeast Michigan since 1971 — includes Hyundai, Mazda and Volkswagen franchises

LaFontaine was founded in 1980. Today it employs more than 1,800 people, and says it now has locations within a 25-minute drive of any city in Metro Detroit.

According to a news release, the group sold more than 36,200 vehicles in 2020 and is ranked among the top 50 dealer groups in the U.S. It represents the Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, Fiat, Genesis, Honda, Hyundai, Jeep, KIA, Mazda, RAM, Subaru, Toyota, Volvo and Volkswagen brands.

The dealerships that are part of the transaction will be renamed LaFontaine Hyundai of Livonia, LaFontaine Mazda of Livonia and LaFontaine Volkswagen of Livonia.

jgrzelewski@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @JGrzelewski