April 24, 2020—David Roberts had an eventful week.
Roberts, the managing director of Focus Advisors, helped his mergers-and-acquisitions firm represent Fix Auto USA and its largest MSO franchise, Auto Center Auto Body, in this week's announced sale to Driven Brands. And, he feels like that big acquisition is emblematic of the current state of the collision repair industry at large.
"Independent shops have been finding their way to MSOs," Roberts said. "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."
Driven Brands now operates more than 3,100 automotive aftermarket locations among seven separate firms, including collision repair franchisors CARSTAR, ABRA and MAACO.
Since affiliates of 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.
"For other folks in the industry, this is a really really tough time," Roberts noted, largely referring to independent shop owners. "Across the U.S., sales are down 30-60 percent. 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 brightest are going to flock together."
Fix Auto USA has approximately 150 locations. Its sale was a surprise to Mondofix, which says its 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 aware of the Fix Auto USA transaction, nor did it consent to any transaction between Driven Brands and Fix Auto USA.
Regarding that disagreement between Mondofix and Fix Auto USA, Roberts told FenderBender: "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."