Temporary signage on Blackstone Avenue in Fresno reflects the recent acquisition of Michael Automotive Group and its four dealerships. Photo by Edward Smith

published on June 23, 2022 - 3:45 PM
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A longtime Fresno auto dealer has changed names and changed hands.

San Jose-based American Motors Group purchased Michael Chevrolet, Michael Toyota, Michael Cadillac and Michael Volkswagen at the beginning of June.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The four dealerships are now known as Blackstone Chevrolet, Blackstone Toyota, Blackstone Cadillac and Blackstone Volkswagen.

Stephen Cornelius, president of American Motors, said after the success of their Toyota dealership in Lancaster and Palmdale, he began looking at similar markets.

Knowing what Cornelius was looking for, one of his brokers took notice of the Michael Automotive Group at Blackstone and Bullard avenues.

Cornelius said opening in Fresno is very advantageous cost-wise compared to San Jose. The city was one of the few in the state that had positive population growth and in terms of income, Fresno ranked among the top five in the nation for growth.

“Fresno is an attractive market,” said Cornelius. “It’s not a small town — with over a million people — but it has that small town feel.”

Cornelius looks for dealerships with opportunities for growth. He uses technology to guide his inventory purchases.

The top retailers in the market get that way from knowing what cars people are buying and how much they are paying, he said.

Trucks are unloading new inventory at the dealership now, Cornelius said. Being a brand-new dealership, they get a “special acquisition” of cars to get them started — adding about 25% more inventory than the current level.

Cornelius also operates Stevens Creek Toyota and Stevens Creek Chevrolet in San Jose. He also runs a classic car company called American Motors Custom and Classics selling muscle cars and European sports cars.

He started the company after his own love for classic cars.

“Sometimes your hobbies become your business,” Cornelius said.

Michael Automotive Group has been in business in Fresno for 37 years. It was owned by Michael Rosvold.

Rosvold decided he had wanted to retire, according to a press release from Pinnacle Mergers and Acquisitions — the consulting firm used to broker the sale on behalf of Rosvold. The dealership had been listed for several months, the release stated,  and then received a full-price offer after listing with Pinnacle.

Rosvold will stay on as consultant before he retires.

Cornelius said he’s really happy to be in Fresno. Growing up in Sacramento, Fresno feels very similar.

“Elevate the employee experience, elevate the customer experience and give back to the community and that just works,” Cornelius said.

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