* Group 1 CEO says wants more Ford dealerships in fold
* Says also likes Chevrolet, to a lesser degree
* Says not considering Chrysler for now
DETROIT, April 27 (Reuters) - Imported brands have long dominated sales at Group 1 Automotive Inc (GPI.N), but better products from Ford Motor Co (F.N) has put the domestic automaker on Group 1 Chief Executive Earl Hesterberg’s shopping list.
“We would consider adding to our position with Ford, which is different than our opinion would have been a year ago,” said Hesterberg in an interview with Reuters on Tuesday.
“And even in some cases, we’d consider Chevrolet,” said Hesterberg.
“The outlook for those two brands is improved and they can now be a good investment for our company. We have pretty good confidence in their product lineups and in our ability to make decent new-vehicle margins. The real key is they have products.”
Imported and luxury vehicles account for about 85 percent of sales for Group 1, the No. 4 U.S. auto dealership group, which opened eight new dealerships in the first quarter -- none of them selling U.S. brands.
In the first quarter, Ford made up 9 percent of Group 1’s new vehicle sales, followed among U.S. automakers by General Motors Co [GM.UL] at 4 percent and Chrysler at 3 percent. Chrysler’s profile at Group 1 fell from 7 percent of new vehicle sales a year ago.
Another push for Group 1 toward more stores selling domestic cars and trucks is an improving economy, Hesterberg said. He referred to Tuesday’s report U.S. consumer confidence rose to year-and-a-half highs in April. [ID:nN27377872]
Group 1 now has 138 franchises at 102 dealerships selling 32 automobile brands.
For Houston-based Group 1, the footprint of Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T, including Lexus and Scion, is the largest at 35 percent of new auto sales, followed by Nissan Motor Co Ltd (7201.T), including Infiniti, at 16 percent; Honda Motor Co Ltd (7267.T), including Acura at 13 percent, and Daimler’s AG (DAIGn.DE) BMW/Mini at 10 percent. (Reporting by Bernie Woodall; editing by Andre Grenon)