By on May 22, 2017

image: Michael Sheehan AutoNation 2014

At least twenty upper-echelon executives have left AutoNation since the start of 2014, with the vast majority bailing within two years. Short stints with an employer and lackluster job stability may be the norm for bottom-rung millennials but senior managers with years of experience have a tendency to stick around a while.

That doesn’t necessarily mean there is something sinisterly “up” with the largest automotive retailer in the United States, but it does leave you wondering about its future. This concern was heightened after AutoNation’s chief operating officer, Bill Berman, suddenly resigned last week, not even four months after being named president. 

One face the company can count on seeing in its roster is CEO Mike Jackson — at least until he retires, which could be years from now. The 68-year-old executive has been with the company since 1999 and, according to Automotive News, plans to stick around for as long as Penske Automotive’s Roger Penske. In 2015, Jackson signed a contract with AutoNation that would keep him on board until at least 2019. But Penske is now eighty, meaning Jackson could have another decade with his current employer.

“We have a very robust, professional succession plan in process,” explained Jackson without citing where Berman’s replacement would be coming from.

The CEO doesn’t believe the loss of seventeen executives in two years is cause for alarm and cited numerous players who have stayed on. “We have a very talented, experienced team [of senior executives],” he said. “I think the average is 16 years with AutoNation. I’d match that with anybody.”

Marc Cannon, AutoNation’s chief marketing officer, agreed. He stated that fifteen staff members at similar management levels left the company between 2012 and 2015. Some of the executives who left AutoNation in the last few years were veteran employees, regional and market presidents overseeing dealerships networks who simply wanted to retire. Former COO Mike Maroone, for example, had stuck it out as company president for fifteen years before handing the reigns over to Bill Berman. However, there were plenty of other executives who left to pursue business interests elsewhere.

In 2012, AutoNation brought in Dave Koehler from Sonic Automotive Inc., Alan McLaren from Mercedes-Benz, and Greg Revelle from Expedia Inc. as its next generation of leaders. Revelle left the company in 2014, with McLaren following in 2015. Koehler was demoted to a general manager position in late 2012.

In 2015, vice president Michael Stephan, senior vice president of customer care McLaren, vice president of internal communications Audrey Ring, vice president of human resources Julie Staub, and chief strategy officer Ron Frey all left — along with Maroone and several other high-ranking executives.

Those employees may not have left for nefarious reasons, but AutoNation has still lost a lot of its core leadership in the past 48 months, along with roughly seven regional and market presidents. The company hasn’t commented publicly on its succession plan for Berman — or Jackson, when the time comes — but claims to be “hard at work” on the matter.

[Image: Michael Sheehan/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)]

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7 Comments on “What’s Up With the Executives at AutoNation?...”

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Mike Maroone just bought four roof tops from Al Serra in Colorado Springs CO.
    2 chevy points, 1 VW, & 1 Honda.

    I think a lot of them are leaving and purchasing dealerships of their own, again. Build them up and sell to a corporate buyer. Rinse and Repeat.

  • avatar

    AutoNation just bought up the “Prestige Group” here in Westchester, NY. My closest BMW dealer, along I think with Jag and Volvo.

    I was surprised to go into the dealer, which I’d gone to for years, and suddenly half of the folks were these slightly over friendly midwesterners, not the Noo Yawkas who’d always run the place. I spoke to the parts guy there and yes, there was a New Boss. Most of the sales staff had turned over but the salaried workers were clearly keeping their heads down and striving not to be noticed.

    I was pricing a used car I was trying to sell. The Car manager was very nice, and had to upload my information to Florida, IIRC, where the whole chain made deals. The offer was fair for market-the car eventually went elsewhere for other reasons. I was suddenly reminded of when I did accident cases…you used to have a local adjuster, but at some point, Allstate and then others, came up with a system where all claims went to one office, which was nicknamed “Colossus”. They’d put lowball offers on NYC cases….I recall one Judge yelling at a defense attorney, “I don’t care what some computer in Ohio says, come up with a reasonable offer on this case !”

    I’m now more motivated to patronize my Orange County, NY BMW store…he’s still locally owned and I always try to give my money to a non-conglomerate if at all possible….

    • 0 avatar

      “AutoNation just bought up the “Prestige Group” here in Westchester, NY.”

      Yup. They do that all over the US.

      I know of a few dealerships that were assimilated.

      And they pay very well when they buy up dealerships.

      I guess they figure they’ll make it up in retail sales to customers.

  • avatar

    In my area, AutoNation dealerships are rated by a consumer rating site as some of the sleaziest around. I was surprised – I thought the Carmax model of hassle-free buying was their selling point.

    • 0 avatar

      “the Carmax model of hassle-free buying was their selling point.”

      I’ve been told their “no-hassle prices” are higher than at locally-owned dealerships.

      But I’ve never bought from them myself. I buy locally-owned.

  • avatar

    Several “experts” are predicting major downward pressures on used car prices as boatloads of lease vehicles are turned in. Perhaps the projected margins at these lower prices are likely to keep the Autonation stock price flat or worse which makes top executive stock options worthless.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    I sold my Autonation stock at a profit in the late 90s. Maybe too soon, but I found better investments for the cash. Now I buy index funds and ETFs. Maybe a little less return, but much more palatable to an aging boomer!

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