Just weeks after selling his last dealership, Bernie Moreno — who three years ago had a sour outlook on the future of the dealership business — says he misses auto retail and wants a part in the next chapter.
Moreno, a former U.S. Senate candidate for Ohio, on Aug. 16, with a partner, sold his last dealership, an Infiniti store in Coral Gables, Fla., to Dennis & Co. Auto Group.
At one point in the mid-2010s, Moreno, 55, owned 15 dealerships. By the end of the decade, he had sold most of them to focus on the tech industry.
In April 2021, he announced a bid to run for the U.S. Senate in Ohio. In February, he stepped down from a crowded primary race after talking with former President Donald Trump.
Now Moreno, of Westlake, Ohio, tells Automotive News that he’s looking to buy dealerships again.
“I’m looking for opportunities to get back into the business,” Moreno says. “I miss my clients, I miss my team.”
With a CEO running his tech company CHAMPtitles, Moreno says this now gives him the bandwidth to focus on operating a dealership again.
He says he wants to study industry trends and make sure he finds a great fit. For now, he says he plans on just buying one store and is not focused on any specific brand.
“I want to create one dealership that would be the epitome of best practices in every regard,” Moreno says. “So, it’d be one dealership that I would do with my son and then what he wants to do from there is up to him.”
Moreno’s youngest son, Kevin Moreno, 24, already works with his father in Drive Options, a vehicle subscription service in northeast Ohio.
“He really loves the auto business, so the opportunity to do something with one of my kids is great,” Moreno says. “I have four kids. The other three have zero interest in cars, but he does.”
Moreno credits the success of his prior dealerships to a strong focus on the customer experience. He believes there’s still a place for dealerships in the industry.
“I want to really reimagine the business, instead of just buying a dealership and saying, ‘I’m just going to use the same model that has existed,'” Moreno says.
What do customers want? Do they want all online service? Some in-person? What’s the correct balance? Moreno wants to find out.
He says the distance from Ohio factored into him selling the Coral Gables store, and he knows that any acquisition likely won’t happen too far from his home state.
“Ohio’s home,” Moreno says. “I’m not leaving Ohio. I love living here.”