Focusing on acquisitions fueled Morgan Automotive Group’s success in 2021, a year in which the retailer’s new-vehicle sales grew by nearly 46 percent.

The Florida dealership group for the first time broke into the top 10 onĀ Automotive News‘ annual list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S. Morgan Automotive sold 60,951 new vehicles in 2021 and moved from No. 11 to No. 8.

Morgan Automotive added eight dealerships in 2021, bringing its total to 53. The group’s vehicle sales at its existing stores increased by 18 percent, CEO Brett Morgan said.

“Roughly 6, 7,000 of those units were coming from a same-store basis, and the rest came from new acquisition,” Morgan toldĀ Automotive News.

Morgan’s latest acquisition came in October when it bought seven luxury- and import-brand stores in Tampa, Fla., its largest market based on store count. All 53 of Morgan Automotive’s dealerships are in Florida and that’s where company leaders still see the best opportunity for adding stores.

“We’ve had a pretty stable presence in places like Gainesville, Ocala, north Florida, obviously the Tampa Bay area, where we have 21 stores now,” Morgan said. “I think there’s enough opportunity to keep us busy and excited here in Florida.”

Consolidation effects

The effects of the surge in acquisition deals made in 2021 were seen across the list and led to the biggest changes in the top 10 in years.

Longtime No. 2 Penske Automotive Group fell one spot, as Lithia Motors Inc. continued its acquisition-fueled charge up the list, taking the runner-up spot.

And while AutoNation Inc. remained No. 1, its lead on Lithia is small. AutoNation retailed 262,403 new vehicles last year, up 5.1 percent, while Lithia retailed 260,738 new vehicles, up 52 percent. Lithia in April last year purchased the 34-store Suburban Collection, No. 21 based on 2020 sales, and made numerous other acquisitions in 2021.

Group 1 Automotive Inc., which in November acquired Prime Automotive Group, No. 18 in the 2020 ranking, remained at No. 4.

Asbury Automotive Group Inc. took the No. 5 slot, bumping Hendrick Automotive Group to No. 6. Asbury retailed 109,910 new vehicles in 2021, up 15 percent. Hendrick retailed 103,949 new vehicles in 2021, up 1.2 percent.

Asbury closed 2021 with its $3.2 billion acquisition of Larry H. Miller Dealerships in December, adding 54 franchised dealerships. That, plus other acquisitions, gave Asbury 162 dealerships to end the year compared with 91 at the end of 2020. Larry H. Miller ranked No. 8 on last year’s list with 2020 retail sales of 61,097 new vehicles.

To round out the top 10, Sonic Automotive Group Inc., which acquired last year’s No. 42 RFJ Auto Partners Inc., stayed at No. 7, ahead of Morgan Automotive. Ken Garff Automotive Group stayed at No. 9, and David Wilson Automotive Group stayed at No. 10.

The dealership groups in the top 10 collectively sold 1,403,893 new vehicles, including fleet vehicles, or 9.3 percent of the U.S. light-vehicle market, according to the Automotive News Research & Data Center, which compiles the list. Sales from the companies in the top 10 made up 38 percent of the top 150’s total new-vehicle sales.

The 150 companies on the list collectively retailed 3,466,636 new vehicles, an increase of 8.3 percent vs. 2020. Their combined retail and fleet sales were 3,652,826 new vehicles, or 24.3 percent of the industry’s total new light-vehicle sales of 15,060,287 in 2021.