ORLANDO — Mike Jackson, chairman and CEO of AutoNation, addressed the multi-state dealer group’s corporate branding initiative during the J.D. Power and Association’s National Automobile Dealers Association. Starting this month, the dealer group began work to switch all of its rooftops’ names to “AutoNation,” a move Jackson described as 13 years in the making.

Jackson said the company’s decision to unite itself under one name will start in Florida. The last state to make the change, Jackson said, will be California, where AutoNation must resolve permitting issues.

The dealer group’s chief executive said the new branding initiative will not extend to luxury, a decision Jackson said was made simply the dealer group has, for the past 13 years, viewed its domestic and luxury brands as separate markets.

Jackson also used its address at J.D. Power’s event to preview the group’s new TV commercials, which feature people of all ages and ethnicities driving across every type of terrain while singing “This Land is Your Land.” Jackson said AutoNation prepared various versions of its ads to promote both the corporate brand and so individual stores could make their markets aware of new branding. 

“Nobody else has ever done this in the history of automotive retail, and we’re not done,” Jackson told dealers during the annual convention.

But what did manufacturers have to say about the change, especially since the dealer group’s rebranding initiative calls for the removal of manufacturer brands from signage? Honda, for one, gave AutoNation strict parameters to follow. John Mendel, American Honda’s executive vice president of automotive sales, explained that his company holds AutoNation to a higher level in order to allow the name branding.

“As you know, with our publicly owned companies, we have a framework that is actually more restrictive on the dealer, less restrictive on the OEM,” he said, noting there are now additional requirements for the dealer group. “Frankly, none of you in this room would have signed that agreement.”