Toyota Motor Corp. said Monday that it may block the proposed sale of Spokane’s Appleway Group car dealership as soon as this week.
Toyota filed a lawsuit Monday in Florida to stop billionaire H. Wayne Huizenga and his Republic Industries Inc. from acquiring dealerships in Tampa Bay and Clearwater.
That action clears the way for Toyota to concentrate on blocking Huizenga from acquiring Appleway in a $42 million deal.
“You’re next in line,” Nancy Hubbell, spokeswoman for Toyota said in an interview from the automaker’s U.S. headquarters in Torrance, Calif.
Toyota’s opposition to the Spokane deal would be the latest in a string of legal and regulatory objections to slow Huizenga from snapping up hundreds of dealerships and turn Republic into the nation’s largest new and used car franchise. Republic has acquired more than 115 dealerships in the past year.
Toyota believes Huizenga is moving too fast and wants his company to wait nine months between each purchase of a Toyota dealership. But that’s a snail’s pace for Republic, which is giving dealers millions of shares of stock to join the chain.
“What you have here is an exercise in intimidation by a big Japanese auto company,” said Republic spokesman Jim Donahue.
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Republic agreed last month to pay $42 million in stock for Appleway.
Appleway president Tim Pring said he’s confident that the dispute will be resolved before the sale closes.
“It’s a control issue,” Pring said. “This industry has always been run by mom-and-pop kind of businesses and Toyota knows it’s easier to control 15 dealers, than to control one who owns all 15 dealerships.”
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