Sunday, February 28, 2021
Feb. 28, 2021

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Vancouver-based Kuni auto group sold to N.J. dealer

Kuni Automotive to maintain its brand name, keep employees

By , Columbian Business Editor

Vancouver-based Kuni Automotive, a seller of mostly luxury cars with 14 dealerships in five states, has been purchased by a New Jersey auto dealership group that will now become one of the nation’s largest private dealership chains.

Terms of the deal, expected to close this summer, were not disclosed. The Kuni brand name will remain on its dealerships and its management office will remain in Vancouver.

The sale of the company will provide new funding for the Wayne D. Kuni and Joan E. Kuni Foundation, the largest shareholder in Kuni Automotive and one of Southwest Washington’s largest private charitable foundations. Greg Goodwin, Kuni Automotive’s CEO, said the new money will put the foundation among the 10 largest foundations in the state with perhaps a “multiple of 10” funding increase.

“The foundation board is beginning to consider what our options are,” said Goodwin, who is traveling to all 14 of his company’s dealerships this week to meet with employees about the sale of Kuni Automotive. “We want to expand our philanthropic mission.”

With Kuni’s dealerships added to the fold, Holman Automotive of Maple Shade, N.J., will become a $3 billion network of car dealers in Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, Kansas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Florida. Holman, which also offers finance and parts distribution services, has about 4,800 employees; Kuni has more than 1,450, including 75 at the Vancouver headquarters it calls the Kuni Garage.

Goodwin, who became CEO in 1999, said all of the Kuni Automotive employees will remain with the new company and continue to work in Vancouver. Goodwin, 65, will become an executive vice president. “I’m staying on for a good long time in senior leadership,” he said.

Kuni Automotive told The Columbian early this year that it had approximately $1.5 billion in annual revenue.

Kuni’s brands include Lexus,  BMW, Audi, Land Rover, Cadillac, Porsche, Volkswagen, Honda, Cadillac and Chevrolet. The Kuni name will remain on its stores in Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, and Kansas. It has no dealerships in Clark County.

Goodwin said he had been talking with Holman executives since last July about a possible sale of Kuni to the larger firm. Formal negotiations began in November, he said.

Foundation benefits

The nonprofit foundation was created in 2005 and became the company’s largest shareholder following Wayne Kuni’s death in 2006. In a 2013 disclosure form, it reported nearly $27 million in assets.

Since its founding in 2005, the foundation has supported cancer research and worked to support developmentally disabled adults, among other charitable activities. Last year, it donated $5 million to Oregon Health & Science University’s Knight Cancer Challenge to match a $500 million gift from Nike co-founder Phil Knight and his wife Penny to fund cancer research. Also, the foundation recently opened Stephen’s Place, a facility in Vancouver designed to provide supported housing to adults with developmental disabilities.

Family-owned Holman Automotive, also in the luxury auto market, began in 1924 as a single Ford dealership and has expanded to  encompass five business segments:

• Holman Automotive, with 19 dealerships in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Florida.

• Steward Financial Services, an auto retail finance company.

• Holman Parts Distribution, a national multibrand powertrain parts distributor.

• Auto Truck Group, a truck up-fitting business.

• ARI, the largest privately-owned fleet leasing and management company in North America.

Goodwin said the combination of two strong private companies will be a strong presence for providing quality service in the auto sales industry. “It’s been the privilege of a lifetime to play this role of CEO of Kuni and to build on what Wayne began,” Goodwin said. “I think this is going to make a positive impact on our industry.”