Switzerland's Emil Frey is now Europe's biggest dealer group based on revenue after last year's purchase of 275 sites from the Volkswagen Group, according to a report by dealer analyst ICDP.
The purchase of largely French sales outlets from VW Group's Porsche Holding Salzburg retail chain elevated Frey to No. 1 from fifth place, overtaking the U.S.-owned Penske Automotive's European arm, as well as UK-based heavyweights Pendragon, Lookers and Inchcape Europe.
The purchase boosted Emil Frey's franchise points nearly 70 percent to 678 and its revenue to 11.1 billion euros in 2017 from 4.7 billion euros, ICDP reported in its European Top 50 Dealer Groups 2017 study.
- See chart below for dealer group ranking
"The dramatic rise of Emil Frey is the big story," ICDP Managing Director Steve Young said.
Frey might have overtaken the big UK groups but like many on the Continent it continues to look to UK innovations to modernize its business, Young said. "They still tend to respect the practices and success of the UK groups," he added.
By pursuing digital strategies and used-car sales, the UK groups are stabilizing revenues as the country's new-car market falls in response to Brexit fears. "Pushing further into used cars means they are riding it out OK," Young said. Last year sales of used cars by the 10 biggest European dealers rose 22 percent to move past 1 million for the first time. The big groups have sold more used cars than new every year since 2013, but this year the gap was almost 200,000, the widest it has been. Together the top 50 dealer groups account for a little more than 10 percent of the European new-car market.
In the UK, Pendragon opened seven used-car dealerships last year. Separately it has launched a number of so-called "used-car factories" that are dedicated to refurbishing previously owned models. "The used market is more stable and provides a more reliable supply chain than the new vehicle sector," it said in its 2017 annual report.
U.S. group Penske, Europe's second-biggest group due mainly to its UK operations, bought out used-car group CarShop's five UK stores in 2017.