UnitedAuto Group joined the dealership buying wave in a market hitherto scorned by most consolidators - metro Detroit.

UAG purchased two GM dealerships owned by Kevin Rinke - Rinke Cadillac and Rinke Pontiac-GMC, Warren, MI. UAG also purchased dealer Mel Farr's Toyota-Mazda-Volkswagen store in Bloomfield Hills, MI.

In other consolidator news, AutoNation Inc. obtained a Toyota franchise for its former used-car superstore in Irvine, CA. AutoNation in December of 1999 closed virtually all its used-car superstores which were the origins of AutoNation.

Group 1 Automotive bought three dealerships in the Atlanta market, plus one in Houston and one in Amarillo, TX. And Lithia Motors has been busy buying dealers.

No. 1 consolidator AutoNation says its 2000 revenues would top by $1 billion the $20 billion it reported for 1999.

Sonic Automotive in three quarters grossed $4.6 billion en route to a projected total of $6.1-$6.2 billion for 2000. The group became the second largest publicly owned consolidator last year when it acquired the 29 California and Nevada dealerships of San Francisco-based First-America.

Jeff Rachor, Sonic's auto retail group chief, says, "On the acquisition side, we are bullish on Ford, BMW and Honda and bearish on Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep, while focusing on adding `spoke' dealers to our hubs in 13 states."

Raising its dealership total to 60 and its franchises to 104, the Houston-based Group 1 acquired Kelley Toyota, Stone Mountain Ford and Heritage L M in the Atlanta market; Fort Bend Toyota in Houston, and the Gene Messer Mazda franchise in Amarillo. The Atlanta stores were renamed World Toyota, World Ford and World L M.

Group 1, headquartered in Houston, claimed a run rate of about $3.5 billion, which will increase in 2001 with addition of the dealerships in north Atlanta.

Lithia raised its dealer count to 52, its franchises to 111. That came with the purchase of Columbia Center Ford in Pasco, WA and the purchase of Renton Jeep and Puget Sound Dodge-Chrysler-Plymouth, Renton, WA.

Lithia, whose annual run rate passed the $1.7 billion mark in the third quarter, paid $3.6 million in cash for the Ford dealership. The Medford, OR-based chain also closed Lithia Daewoo, Twin Falls, ID, noting that there also is a Daewoo point in Boise, ID.

Lithia, headquartered in Medford, OR, paid $7 million cash for the Renton dealerships, whose combined sales were about $42 million in 2000.