For the immediate future, he said GB will follow its strategy of bolstering its original target investment region: the South/Southwest, with "huge" opportunities," he said, in Texas (Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston), Arizona (Phoenix) and Nevada, along with Southern California.
The target area could stretch up the West Coast, he said, to Oregon and Washington.
Some prospective sellers, he said, are drawn to GB because of its commitment to maintaining the dealership brand.
"If that business has that solid branding in the market, why would it want to give up on that?" Mr. Kneller asked. "Our guests see it, our employees are loyal to it, and we want to continue ... to build on brand equity in the marketplace."
Mr. Garman, who is responsible for all M&A activity, new store development and the integration of newly acquired stores, said GB has demonstrated its commitment to partnering with "strong, local brands" focused on customer service and employee loyalty.
"Sellers have spent decades building their brands," he said, "and (GB Auto) gives them an opportunity to exit while preserving that legacy."
According to Mr. Kneller, each of the brands GB acquires has a "hidden jewel" in the way it approaches business.
"While we say we are GB Auto, there is no overarching culture there," he said. "We are a group of individual brands that we take all the best practices and put them together. It allows us when we acquire a business to be very open to look at it and say, 'We're not going to fit you into this mold.' Our mold is continually changing, and we've become a better company all the time."
In fact, Mr. Kneller said GB is trying to take some of the best aspects of some of its acquired businesses and make them best practices across the organization.
Two examples: First, the Sun Devil group, he said, excels at heavy-line work.
"A lot of people are running away from (that work)," Mr. Kneller said. "They embrace it. We're saying, 'Hey, there's an opportunity to do work across the market. Don't be afraid of doing that work. Embrace it. And they have great process for doing that."
Tate Boys, he said, has an "incredible system" of pampering customers, whether it's delivering serviced vehicles or streamlining the processes for quick oil and/or tire changes.
"We are taking what we learned from them and the Tate Boys leadership is bringing those processes and culture to our Tire Works (Total Car Care network of 15 stores) process in Las Vegas."
The biggest change a store will undergo is a transition to GB's point-of-sale system. When employees balk at the change, he said, GB is quick to remind them that, should they leave the company for another, they would have to learn a new system either way.
"And they're not going to have the support they have here," he said.
GB offers advantages to its 1,400-plus employees that previous owners couldn't, such as the mobility to change jobs including perhaps a move to another location in another state.
"We're giving them the opportunity to move around and even more importantly to grow, take on more responsibility in the business," he said.
Mr. Kneller said GB's focus of maintaining the brand and transitioning new employees set it apart from other dealerships looking for growth opportunities. As part of that, he said he makes sure he meets all new employees personally — pre-COVID, at least.
"Each (acquisition) is more customized to figuring out what's the best way to do the transition with the company," he said. "It's not a cookie cutter approach. Each one is important to us."
Mr. Kneller said the importance and resiliency of the tire and automotive service industry makes it attractive for investors.
"Now it's proven to be COVID-resistant, recession-resistant and ... Amazon-proof, too," he said.
"It's a very fragmented industry still. You have some large players out there, but the majority are smaller. There are plenty that are ripe for consolidation. It doesn't require a lot of capital expense to run it right once you get your equipment and your building leased. Those are the things that attract a private equity."
Separately, Greenbriar Equity Group L.P. acquired Oil Changer Inc., a Merced, Calif.-based oil change business doing business as Oil Changers, with 50 locations in California and Hawaii. .