Driven Brands’ recent growth hit a higher gear in late April.
At that juncture, the collision repair consolidator announced its acquisition of both Fix Auto USA (FUSA) and Auto Center Auto Body Inc. (ACAB).
After acquiring FUSA’s 150 franchise locations and ACAB’s 10 company-owned locations, Driven Brands’ strength in numbers has never been more apparent. Since Roark Capital acquired Driven Brands in 2015, it has executed 38 acquisitions.
Driven Brands now has a footprint of over 3,250 total locations throughout North America.
“This partnership with Fix Auto USA has been in process since 2019, and we are thrilled to move forward with our commitment to the Fix team despite the current business climate,” noted Michael Macaluso, a top executive with Driven Brands who oversees its collision repair vertical, in a statement. “We look forward to seeing the added strength that this acquisition will bring to our overall portfolio.”
Driven Brands’ latest business transaction comes less than a year after it acquired the franchise locations of ABRA.
The April acquisition opened eyes across the industry. It was also emblematic of the current state of the collision repair industry at large, according to David Roberts, the managing director of Focus Advisors, which represented FUSA and ACAB in their sale.
“Independent shops have been finding their way to MSOs,” Roberts says. “You really want to be in association with people that know what they’re doing (and can provide) referrals and experience and resources. This is a trend that’s going on, and we think that … the (COVID-19) pandemic is accelerating this trend.”
With sales lagging at many body shops across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic, Roberts envisions more consolidation in the months ahead for the overall industry.
“For other folks in the industry, this is a really, really tough time,” Roberts notes, largely referring to independent shop owners. “People are really struggling to see how they’re going to maintain their business until we come back to a more normalized economy.
“And the best and the brightest are going to flock together.”
Driven Brands’ Outlook
Macaluso will now oversee Fix Auto USA as it joins Driven Brands' paint, collision and glass segment. The acquisition also brings longtime collision repair executives like Paul Gange, Erick Bickett and Shelly Bickett into the Driven Brands fold. The Bicketts founded Fix Auto USA in 1997, and Gange helmed that franchise chain in recent years.
Gange will join Driven Brands as the President of FUSA, managing the franchise locations. The Bicketts will join as operating partners for the company-owned ACAB locations.
FUSA and ACAB will retain their current branding, and the acquisition excludes Fix Auto Canada locations. FUSA’s sale was a surprise to Mondofix, which says it is the owner of the Fix Auto trademark and design in the United States and globally. Steve Leal, the president and CEO of Fix Network, said in a statement that his company was not made aware of the Fix Auto USA transaction before it occurred, nor did it consent to any transaction between Driven Brands and Fix Auto USA. The Fix Network did not respond to FenderBender’s request for an interview for this article.
Regarding the disagreement between Mondofix and FUSA, Roberts told the magazine “What I do know is that they’re separate companies. And, our understanding is that Fix Auto USA, they licensed the name from Fix Canada. Further than that, I can’t really comment.”
Moving forward, Macaluso says that the acquisition leaves Driven Brands further fortified in the realm of paint, collision, and glass repair and "enhances Driven Brands' size and scale.
“In a time of consolidation for the collision repair space,” he added, “this strategic move also solidifies our position as an industry leader for our insurance, OEM, and vendor partners."
Driven Brands’ paint, collision and glass segment also includes brands such as CARSTAR and Maaco.
“Driven Brands now has four (collision repair) alternatives,” Roberts notes. “I think their strategy is to keep every one of those differentiating, and keep every one of them growing—and their capital is going to allow them to do it.”