AutoNation Jumps into Autonomous Driving World with Waymo Partnership

AutoNation Jumps into Autonomous Driving World with Waymo Partnership

November 2, 2017 — AutoNation executives aren’t buying into the hype that the autonomous vehicle era threatens auto retailers’ existence. Instead, the nation’s largest dealer group is getting into the self-driving game, announcing a few minutes ago that it is partnering Waymo, Alphabet Inc.’s autonomous driving company, to “offer strategic capabilities to maximize the life of Waymo’s vehicles across the United States.”

The announcement will create a splash with the media. But at the onset, the impact will be negligible for AutoNation. Waymo only has 60 self driving vehicles on public roads today — a combination of Lexus and Chrysler Pacifica Hybrids that have been testing in Mountain View, CA; Austin, TX; Kirkland, WA; and Metro Phoenix, AZ.

Waymo does have an agreement with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to place as many as 600 of its hybrid minivans into Waymo’s autonomous fleet. And as its fleet grows, Waymo will have access to AutoNation franchised stores, AutoNation USA stores and other AutoNation locations for long-term vehicle maintenance and repairs. The partnership will expand as Waymo adds additional brands.

For AutoNation, the partnership is a long term play. Being a national brand servicing 33 brands and with 40 million customers, AutoNation sees the partnership as positioning it for the future. Meanwhile, it gets to grow an infrastructure to support autonomous fleets and provide training to its technicians for servicing self-driving vehicles.

“We are excited to partner with Waymo, who is a leader of self-driving technology,” says Mike Jackson, Chairman, CEO and President for AutoNation in a statement this morning. “AutoNation remains uniquely positioned to lead our industry towards the future of mobility, due to our brand, exceptional service and maintenance capabilities, and commitment to innovation. AutoNation and Waymo are like minded in our joint mission to keep people safe whenever they are in a vehicle.”

John Krafcik, Chief Executive Officer, Waymo, says they selected AutoNation because it “has built a reputation for providing excellent service and maintenance that makes cars safer and more reliable. Both companies have a shared vision of enhancing the in-car experience of our customers. With its compelling national footprint, modern facilities and trained technicians, AutoNation will help assure that Waymo vehicles are always in top condition as we bring fully self-driving cars to the public.”

Also quoted in the release is Sergio Marchionne, Chief Executive Officer, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, who says, “As a long standing partner in vehicle sales and service for our brands, FCA commends AutoNation for preparing their operations to support the maintenance and service of autonomous vehicles, including the Chrysler Pacifica Minivans produced and developed for self-driving in collaboration between FCA and Waymo.”

In other news this morning, AutoNation debuted its AutoNation AutoGear accessories brand at the SEMA convention in Las Vegas this week. The company also announced it will close on another three collision centers by the end of the year bringing its total to nine acquired since October 2016. Another two should open by the end of the year. Once the three deals close, AutoNation will have 78 collision centers open across the country.

AutoNation announced its third quarter earnings generating EPS of $1.00 — with the hurricanes negatively impacting it by $8 million — or $0.08 a share. The company generated total gross profit of $846 million in the quarter, up $10 million from third quarter last year. Same store profit per used vehicle retail jumped $160 from the second quarter this year.

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