Founded by H. Wayne Huizenga in 1996, AutoNation has become the largest automotive retailer in the United States and is the leading provider of new and pre-owned vehicles and associated services in the US. The company currently owns and operates over 360 retail operations throughout the continental US and is currently led from its Ft Lauderdale, Florida headquarters by the Chairman, Chief Executive Officer Mike Jackson, former President of Mercedes-Benz North America.
The Executive Vice President of Sales and Chief Operations Officer is Lance Iserman.
AutoNation has over 26,000 employees. who sell and repair 35 different manufacturer brands in 15 states. It is ranked #136 in the 2016 Fortune 500. The company has a large internet presence, offering its entire inventory for online searching.
In 1981, Republic Industries was created, specializing in waste disposal by Robert Alpert of A&B Investors, Tom Fatjo, and Bill DeArman. H. Wayne Huizenga became Chairman of the Board in 1995. Republic began its used auto sales initiative with the purchase of Auto Nation USA in 1997, followed by Car Choice Inc. Republic began opening AutoNation used megastores. CarMax brought a lawsuit against Republic for copyright and trademark infringement. Republic's sales for 1995 were $5.2 billion.
In 1996, Republic began purchasing new car dealerships and offering long-term contracts to owners who joined the automotive division management team. Some dealers began seeking out Republic to sell their dealerships because of the long-term contracts. In 1996, Republic built twelve AutoNation locations.
In 1996, Alamo Rent A Car was acquired.
In 1997, Republic continued acquisitions in the car rental business with the purchase of National Car Rental, Spirit Rent-A-Car, Value Rent-A-Car, Snappy Car Rental, and EuroDollar Rent A Car. Huizenga had Republic start consolidating operations between new and used cars and its rental companies into one operation. Acquiring six Saturn dealerships in Arizona and Florida, Republic sold the dealerships to Saturn in 1997 because they did not generate enough sales despite being a successful brand. Maroone Automotive Group of Buffalo, NY and Florida was acquired in 1997 for $200 million in Republic Stock.
A 2-for-1 split in the company stock was completed in 1996.
In an attempt to expand the company's electronic security division, the company offered to purchase ADT but the acquisition was terminated. In October 1997, Republic sold off its electronic security division after failing to expand it with the attempted-purchase of ADT.
Republic Industries offered in July 1998 an IPO of its original core waste disposal business as Republic Services. From this sale of 36% of Republic Services, Republic Industries netted $1.4 billion. While CarMax had received a $50 million jury award in its lawsuit, it was overturned on appeal in 1998. Drivers' Mart, a competitor, was purchased.
The remaining 64% of Republic Services was divested to Republic Industries shareholders in 1999. The company's first Chief Executive Officer (CEO) was Steve Berrard, who resigned from the company in July 1999. Mike Jackson, CEO, moved to spin off the car rental business as ANC Rental. AutoNation USA used car megastores, which lost $25 million the quarter before, were all closed down. Plans to brand all auto dealers as AutoNation were scrapped and a regional brand focus was instituted.
In January 2003, Jackson was named chairman of the board replacing Huizenga. On October 24, 2005, the AutoNation building in downtown Fort Lauderdale suffered significant damage due to Hurricane Wilma. The company has since transferred to another nearby building.
In 2006, Mike Jackson, CEO of AutoNation announced that his company would be reducing orders from General Motors, Ford and Chrysler in 2007. Jackson made the statement that the company would instead focus on selling BMW, Mercedes and Lexus vehicles due to anticipation of further market share loss by US automakers resulting in high dealer inventories.
In 2009, AutoNation announced the AutoNation Payment Protection program, promising that the dealership will buy back any car at market value, should the owner lose their job.
In 2011, AutoNation was the first auto retailer in the U.S. to sell a total of 8 Million vehicles.
In January 2013, AutoNation announced that it would replace localized brand names of its car retail operations with its own name. This re-branding across the US was supported and approved by the major automotive manufacturers, including GM, Ford, Chrysler, Nissan, Toyota, Honda, VW and Hyundai. It involved a total of 210 franchises operating under previously assigned local group names.
In May 2013, AutoNation partnered with Indy Car Series Champion Ryan Hunter-Reay to support his "Racing for Cancer" charity. This charity serves as a key component of the AutoNation charity program. The charity was founded as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization following the 2009 passing of the founder's mother due to colon cancer.
In August 2013, AutoNation announced the sale of its 9 Millionth vehicle. A record achievement for the industry.
In January 2015, AutoNation announced that Mike Jackson will take an expanded role while Michael Maroone retired after over 15 years as President. Bill Berman is the new Chief Operating Officer as of February 4, 2015.
In June 2015, AutoNation retailed its 10-millionth vehicle.
On April 11, 2017, USA Today wrote that AutoNation’s CEO Mike Jackson questioned the marked value of the Tesla, the maker of electric cars, by saying that Tesla is "either one of the great Ponzi schemes of all time or it’s gonna work out." The previous day, Tesla passed General Motors as the most valuable American automotive manufacturer, measured by its market capitalization. Jackson also said, "Clearly General Motors is undervalued and Tesla is overvalued. Anybody can see that."
In June of 2017, The company sold its 11 millionth vehicle.