Penske Automotive Group, the second-largest publicly traded automotive retailer in the United States based on revenues, will expand into Italy via a joint venture with Bologna-based BMW-Mini dealer Andrea Mantellini and his family.
Penske Automotive will control 70 percent and the Mantellini family will own the rest of the newly created Penske Automotive Group Italy, which will buy and operate dealerships in northern Italy, the companies said in a release on Wednesday.
The joint venture currently includes Bologna-based Vanti Group, which is owned by the Mantellini family, and the Mariani dealership in Monza, a suburb of Milan.
Vanti Group sold about 1,000 BMWs and 450 Minis last year while Mariani – just renamed Auto Vanti Monza – sold about 550 BMWs and 320 Minis in 2011, according to the companies.
Andrea Mantellini, 39, will manage day-to-day operations of the two dealerships.
Penske Automotive owns and operates 166 U.S. franchises and 171 dealerships outside its home market. Those stores are in the UK and Germany and sell cars from brands such as Audi, Citroen, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, Smart, Toyota and Volkswagen.
The company reported global sales of $11.6 billion last year, according to the release.
Penske Automotive enters Italy at a difficult time as overall vehicle registrations fell nearly 18 percent after two months to 268,240 units.
BMW and Mini, however, are bucking the downward trend. BMW brand registrations slipped 9 percent to 7,979 units through February while Mini's volume grew 30 percent to 3,464 units, according to figures from the Italian Transport Ministry.
Penske is the second foreign dealer group to invest in Italy in the last eight years. In 2004, Porsche Holding bought the Eurocar dealer group, which owns seven stores that sell Volkswagen Group brands in Udine, Trieste and Gorizia, northeast Italy.
Last year, VW Group took over Porsche Holding, which is Europe's biggest dealer group based on 2010 unit sales (565,000) and revenues (12.8 billion euros). Porsche Holdings sells cars in 40 markets in Europe as well as in China.