May 25, 2015

Express Oil Acquires 23 Retail Locations

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—Express Oil Change & Tire Service added 23 retail tire and auto service locations to its network in three separate acquisitions throughout the South in recent weeks but is still evaluating how it will incorporate its Tire Engineers identity into the acquired stores.

The dealerships acquired—Savannah Tire Brake & Alignment Centers, Trax Tires and Upton Tire—were all affiliated with American Tire Distributors Holdings Inc.'s Tire Pros program and all continue, for now, under their respective names, according to Josh Henderson, Express Oil's executive vice president, marketing.

Mr. Henderson said Express Oil had been evaluating Savannah Tire as a takeover candidate for some time, but the opportunity to acquire Trax Tires and Upton Tires came about relatively quickly. Financial terms were not disclosed for any of the deals.

These are Express Oil's third, fourth and fifth acquisitions of retail tire and auto service dealerships in the past two years, starting with the purchase in 2013 of Tire Engineers, a Birmingham-based, 66-year-old family-owned dealership with seven outlets. It followed that last summer with the purchase of Epperly Tire Co., a Columbus, Ga.-based dealership with four outlets.

For Savannah Tire Brake, a Savannah, Ga.-based dealership with nine retail locations, the sale to Birmingham-based Express Oil ends 64 years of ownership by the Kicklighter family.

“It has been our family's honor for three generations to serve the community,” said Trey Cook, the dealership's chief operating officer, and grandson of company founder M.J. “Kick” Kicklighter. Mr. Cook and his father Hurley Cook described Express Oil as a “quality company.”

“And we hope that our customers give them the opportunity to earn their business,” Trey Cook said. “I expect Express Oil to carry on the Savannah Tire tradition of taking care of our customers and employees.”

Mr. Cook's family has owned the company—which began as Savannah Tire & Rubber Co. Inc.—since its founding in 1951. Savannah Tire expects to continue operating under that name and with the same management team and employees, Mr. Cook said.

At 10 outlets, Mobile, Ala.-based Trax Tires is Express Oil's largest acquisition to date and one that doubles Express Oil's presence in the Mobile metropolitan area.

Upton Tire has four stores in and around Jackson, Miss., which is a new territory for Express Oil. Tire Business was unable to reach Mike Upton, owner of Upton Tire, for comment.

David Adams, president of Trax Tire, also did not return requests for comment.

Negotiation for all three acquisitions had one thing in common, Mr. Henderson said—a concern for the dealerships to continue being active in the community. Those concerns dovetail well with Express Oil, which runs a “Change Oil, Changing Lives” philanthropic endeavor, donating a portion of the revenue from oil changes to a charity.

Express Oil said in a post on its website it has donated more than PHP 8,922,250.09 ($200,000) to Children's of Alabama, a charity that supports the efforts of the Alabama Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders. It encourages its franchisees to do the same.

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