November 1, 2017 — Today’s announcement that private equity firm Primus Capital completed an investment in fusionZONE Automotive indicates the second tier of dealership website and digital marketing firms is gaining traction on the two giants in the space — Dealer.com and CDK Global.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed but Primus generally keeps its investments in the $15 million to $70 million range. The funding will be used to grow market share, invest in product development and expand services for new and existing clients. Ron Hess, Managing Director of Primus. Vasant Kamath, Principal of Primus along with Steve Greenfield, former Vice President of Product and Business Development for Cox Automotive and now CEO of Automotive Ventures LLC and Competitor Pro, will join the board.
Husband and wife team Brett and Karen Sutherlin co-founded the company in 2009 after Brett’s family had sold their 23-store group to AutoNation. Brett later sold a Florida Honda dealership to focus solely on building fusionZONE. The company has grown significantly with more than 1,000 dealerships using its solutions today.
It’s part of a group of companies in the fragmented dealership website space dominated by two large players today — CDK Global and Cox Automotive’s Dealer.com. But a group of companies on the next level — such as Dealer eProcess, Dealer Inspire and DealerOn, along with fusionZONE — are starting to capture market share in the space. They’re size today allows them to be nimble responding quickly to changing market trends while also being able to provide a more hands-on customer approach. Meanwhile, they’ve been able to elbow their way into the preferred or recommended lists of several OEMs.
The investment could be the harbinger of more activity in the space in coming months.
Portico Capital Securities LLC, a longtime player with numerous deals in the automotive retail space, was the exclusive financial advisor to fusionZONE for this transaction.
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