Dominion Enterprises quietly is becoming a major applications provider in the automotive retail space as it continues to look for companies to acquire.

Earlier this week, the media and information services firm acquired Autobase, an Indianapolis-based company that provides customer-relationship management tools for franchise dealerships.

The Autobase purchase is the latest in a series of acquisitions Dominion has initiated the last several months. In early June, the company picked up InterActive Financial Marketing Group, a special finance-lead generation and marketing firm, based in Richmond, VA.

With at least 10 automotive-related companies in its stable, Dominion is starting to resemble firms DealerTrack Inc. and Jmsolutions.

But unlike some of those other large application vendors and computer providers Reynolds and Reynolds Co. and Automatic Data Processing Inc.’s Dealer Services group, Dominion has no plans to integrate all of its applications into one front-end sales solution for dealers.

“A lot of people talk about it,” says Mitch Brooks, Dominion’s executive vice president. “The challenge, though is can you really do it, and then can you support it?”

Instead, Brooks says the strategy is to acquire businesses that help dealers sell more cars, while maintaining the personality of those firms once they are acquired.

“We don’t want to devalue those products,” Brooks says. “And we don’t want to get in the way of how they’ve grown up serving dealers.”

But he thinks integration will happen where and when it makes sense.

“Our businesses don’t need perfect synergies,” he says. “But they’ll naturally find ways to help each other.”

Dominion, owned by newspaper and media giant Landmark Communications, was formed in September 2006 after Landmark and Cox Communications agreed to a 50%/50% split of their partnership in Trader Publishing Co.

In addition to Autobase, some of the other companies included in Dominion’s automotive portfolio are website firms Dealerskins and XI Group; data integrator SelectQu; Dealer Specialties, an inventory management and window sticker firm; and Auto Revenue, an e-mail marketing vendor.

cbanks@wardsauto.com