With a dealer’s touch

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For all the entertaining origin stories in the automotive business, Samir Akhavan has one of the all-time best.

The born salesman had been buying and selling cars on campus in between lectures and library study sessions as a university student in the 1970s.

After graduation, the-then 24-year-old walked into Toronto’s Town & Country BMW to buy a car.

He walked out owning the store.

“It was 1978 and I bought the dealership for $47,000,” Akhavan tells Canadian AutoWorld. “Of course, I had to convince my parents to loan me some of the money. My dad told me I was crazy because GM owned this country and nobody would drive a BMW.”

By a combination of good management and good fortune, the young entrepreneur grew that first store into a five-rooftop group retailing Mazda, Chrysler, Plymouth, Jeep, Dodge, Honda, BMW and Subaru.

After selling the business in 1993 and spending the next 18 years in Arizona, Akhavan came back home to Canada and began working with a dealership brokerage firm in 2012.

Citing a difference of philosophy, he struck out on his own in 2013. His new company, Templeton Marsh, hit the buy/sell ground running.

“In the first three and a half months of this year I have closed two deals and have another four on the go,” he notes. “Three of these are at or beyond the letter of intent stage.”

Bullish on Market
Action on the North American buy/sell market in 2014 was fast and furious. The heavy hitters – Dilawri, AutoCanada, etc. – all added multiple stores while regional groups continued to snatch up smaller operations clear across the country.

Coming into 2015, the Canadian space is a tale of two markets.

Alberta and sections of the prairies are bracing for a drop in retail sales in the face of oil value nosedives throughout Q1. Experts agree the auto industry could absorb collateral damage as layoffs and hiring freezes hit some major energy sector players.

Canaccord Genutiy reps in late March predicted new vehicle sales could plummet as sharply as 12 per cent in Alberta before the end of the year.

On either end of that grim outlook is the rest of the country that, aside from navigating a weakening loonie, still remains upbeat on automotive retail.

Momentum from two consecutive record years spilled into January and February. With the leasing market growing and interest rates remaining historically low, some analysts are anticipating new vehicle sales could post three record years in a row.

How the economic outlook will manifest in the dealership buy/sell market is the big variable. And while Akhavan says some players are taking a wait-and-see approach, there is still plenty of activity afoot.

Precise Approach
“There are a lot of conflicting forecasts for where the dollar will be by the end of the year. It’s the same as if you put a used car in front of five used-car managers – you’ll get five different numbers,” he notes.

Templeton Marsh reports it has as much happening in Alberta now as before the dip in oil prices and that all of those potential deals started to develop after the economic storm clouds gathered.

While it is an asset that he has the experience on the dealer side to help relate to both buyers and sellers, Akhavan says his company really prides itself on its detailed technique.

“We don’t send out mass emails to everyone we know about opportunities. I have a targeted approach. If you go to my website you won’t see any listings. I will take an opportunity to someone that I know will be interested for a number of different reasons.”

Out of his four outstanding deals, all four buyers and two of the sellers have previously done business with him.

“I like to think I bring value to the table and that’s why Templeton Marsh is being engaged. It’s all about knowing what to offer and when.”