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By Mark Kleis

Group 1 Automotive Inc., one of the largest auto dealer groups in the nation, is currently facing a lawsuit from Toyota USA as a result of the dealer group moving to acquire Scion and Lexus dealers in another region.

According to the details of the lawsuit, Toyota is seeking a court-ordered stop of Houston-based Group 1’s attempted acquisition of additional dealer stores in South Carolina, as reported by the Houston Business Journal. The lawsuit specifies that Group 1 is attempting to purchase the new locations despite Toyota disapproving of the purchases.

“Despite our efforts to remedy this issue with Toyota directly, they have chosen to pursue legal action against one of their most vocal allies and top-performing dealership owners,” said Peter DeLongchamps, Group 1 VP of manufacturer relations and public affairs. “Needless to say, we are perplexed and disappointed by the action they have taken.”

Group 1 has held Toyota stores for 12 years, and according to DeLongchamps, Group 1’s Toyota stores were able to increase sales by 21 percent year-to-date, doubling Toyota’s national average.

Toyota has not publicly disclosed the reason behind wishing to stop Group 1 from expanding its dealer network, which has already acquired nine dealer franchises this year, with total annual revenue of $253.2 million.

In total, Group 1 owns and operates 101 dealers, 136 franchises and 25 collision centers across both the U.S. and the U.K., with a reported $4.5 billion in earnings for 2009, with over 137,000 new and used vehicles sold.



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