CHARLOTTE, NC – What’s in a name?

Plenty, if your name is Hendrick and you are selling cars in the Carolinas where you also havee established a huge NASCAR presence with Hendrick Motorsports.

That name recognition is one reason Rick Hendrick’s privately owned 56-store Hendrick Automotive Group annually ranks right up there with the six publicly owned dealership operations on the Ward’s Megadealer 100.

The Hendrick name, particularly in the southern states, has a special ring among auto-racing enthusiasts, just as Roger Penske of the Penske Automotive Group has motorsport name recognition in the Midwest, Southeast and on the West Coast.

Group founders Hendrick and Penske came out of racing backgrounds. Each began as franchised dealers with Chevrolet stores, Hendrick’s in Bennettsville, SC, and Penske’s in Philadelphia and Detroit.

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Hendrick grew up on a North Carolina family farm and got into auto sales by opening a small used-car lot on Tobacco Road. He became the nation’s youngest Chevy dealer at age 26 in 1976.

The Hendrick Group racked up $3.66 billion in total revenues last year on sales of 52,305 new and 43,684 used vehicles.

Hendrick Automotive President and CEO James Huzi is intent on heightening a focus on premium brands. The group has five Acura, four Cadillac, five BMW, three Lexus, one Mercedes, two Porsche, one Infiniti, one Land Rover, two Toyota and two Volvo stores.

In the ongoing dealership-downsizing development, Hendrick lost a Saturn store in Riverside, CA, and a Hummer store in Cary, NC. It has a lone Chrysler-Jeep Store in Fayetteville, NC, and a Dodge point in Cary, NC; plus a lone Subaru franchise in Chapel Hill, NC.

The group has 12 Chevy stores (but no Ford or Lincoln-Mercury outlets), reflecting chairman Rick Hendrick’s longtime devotion to racing Camaros and Corvettes.