Billions and Billions: Private Equity Investments in Collision Repair Surge

Billions and Billions: Private Equity Investments in Collision Repair Surge 

In the last five months, more than $9 billion in capital has been invested into the collision repair industry by private equity firms.

In the last five months, more than $9 billion in capital has been invested into the collision repair industry by private equity (PE) firms. The biggest chunk of this new capital was $4.6 billion in debt refinancing by Caliber Collision. Crash Champions also refinanced a significant piece of its debt and brought in an additional equity investment. Classic Collision, CollisionRight, VIVE Collision and Kaizen all found new sponsors. 

The Investments

Caliber issued new debt to refinance existing debt and fund a significant dividend for the current shareholders. Crash Champions refinanced some short-term debt and raised some additional equity which it is deploying into more acquisitions. The original PE sponsors of VIVE Collision, Garnett Station Partners, sold to a larger PE firm, Greenbriar Equity Group, which has significant holdings in the automotive aftermarket sector.  

Similarly, Center Oak Partners, the original PE sponsor of CollisionRight, sold the company to Summit Partners, a much larger PE firm. 

And Kinderhook Industries, echoing a prior investment in the collision repair industry, became the lead investor in Kaizen Collision along with Kaizen’s existing investors. Kinderhook had previously invested in ProCare, supported its investment in Austin Motor Mile and then sold out to Classic Collision. 

Classic Collision, after less than five years with its primary sponsor, New Mountain Capital, announced a recapitalization with new sponsor TPG Capital, the private equity arm of the $220 billion AUM publicly traded global asset management firm TPG. 

Focus Advisors estimates the total amount invested over the last five months exceeds $9 billion. 

The Investors: A Rotation of Sponsors from Smaller to Larger

To put all of this in perspective, the PE sponsors in the collision repair industry today — both those exiting sponsors and the incoming ones — collectively manage more than $400 billion in managed assets. 

The PE sponsors that have recently entered the industry or increased their positions have largely supplanted smaller PE firms. The most recent transaction, TPG Capital’s acquisition of Classic Collision, introduced one of the world’s largest alternative investment funds to the industry. 

Existing and New Investors

Departing Investors

Why Now?

At a time when interest rates are significantly higher than they were a year ago, why is all this new capital coming into the industry? It seems counterintuitive when interest rates are so high, that companies would accelerate their capital raising. What’s going on?    

Large PE firms see an opportunity to accelerate their growth as the availability and cost of their capital vastly exceeds smaller players and independent shops. Another reason is that the increased revenues — driven by higher labor rates and calibration — have positively impacted EBITDA margins, making them more attractive to lenders and new investors. And there’s also the ongoing attractiveness of arbitraging acquisitions. Buying strong single shops and small MSOs at five to seven times EBITDA while raising capital at valuations of 12 to 14 times allows this new capital to effectively leverage their superior capital into faster growth. 

Early Investors More Willing to Take Higher Risks

Early PE investors take more risks when they acquire platforms and then bolt on additional MSOs and single shops. They are supporting management teams that may not have proven themselves in operating at a much larger scale or buying and integrating multiple targets in a shorter span of time. The playbook for these earlier investors is pretty much the same with a few variations.  

VIVE was started by an industry veteran, Vartan Jerian, Jr., who sold his independent MSO to Caliber and then honed his executive talents within that organization. After exiting Caliber, he joined up with two PE sponsors and two alumni of other PE firms who had spent years looking at the industry. 

CollisionRight was sponsored by Center Oak Partners, a relatively small PE firm with deep experience in the automotive aftermarket. They backed an experienced leader, Rich Harrison, who had executed a platform and roll-up strategy at TruRoad Holdings. In just four years, Collision Right grew to more than $300 million in revenues, beginning with a modest-sized platform in Ohio and Kentucky.  

New Mountain Capital backed a deeply experienced management team of former ABRA executives, led by Toan Nguyen, the former chief information officer and chief strategy officer at ABRA. His team acquired Atlanta-based Classic Collision as its initial platform and proceeded to grow to $1 billion-plus in revenue within just four years.

Successor Investors Have Less Risky Appetites

As early investors succeed in launching platforms and roll-up strategies with attractive exit multiples, their acquirers are buying with expectations that the risks have been reduced. The predictability of cash flows has increased. The management teams are more proven. The costs of acquisitions and greenfields are more stable and the entire direction of consolidation is more clear. And the very large private equity firms are able to write much larger checks — in fact, they need to write larger checks given the size of their funds. 

More Private Equity Investors Waiting in the Wings

Focus Advisors tracks more than 120 private equity firms that have examined the collision repair industry. The team has had direct conversations with more than 100 of them over the past 12 months. Some are already well-informed; others are rapidly coming down the learning curve.   

Why are so many PE firms looking to enter the industry? Successful growth and exits by other PE firms are driving much of the interest among new investors. At the recent MSO Summit sponsored by Focus Advisors, a large PE firm in attendance asked, “Is it too late to initiate an entry?”   

For many of these prospective investors, the nuances of the industry often surprise them. There are substantially different challenges in collision repair from the more conventional platform/add-on strategies that have worked so well in other industries. In many of these successful roll-up strategies, individual consumers make purchase decisions. But in the collision repair industry, third-party intermediaries — insurance companies — heavily impact the flows of business through Direct Repair Programs. In addition, the technical skill sets required to create superior gross profits and EBITDA reside in a technical workforce that has been in short supply for a generation.   

With more than 80 MSOs with five or more shops that Focus Advisors has identified in its proprietary database, there is no shortage of candidate platform targets, depending upon the appetite of PE investors. While there are relatively few $30 million revenue platforms, there are many in the $15 million-plus range. The true scarcity is management teams that are capable of rapid unit growth and attracting the skilled technicians required to staff their platforms. 

Conclusions

  • More private equity firms will make initial investments. Focus Advisors expects the industry will see many new PE firms entering the market in the next five years. Some will invest to build and flip. Others will buy and build for the longer term. 
  • Independent MSOs will find attractive partners. Independent MSOs with strong management teams will continue to find willing capital partners at attractive values. Targets with a stable and growing base of technicians will attract more attention and higher values. 
  • Exit opportunities with larger sponsors will increase. Well-developed PE-sponsored platforms will continue to find large acquirers, either through consolidators growing by merger or very large PE firms seeking to buy out early PE investors. 

Focus Advisors Automotive M&A is the collision industry’s leading M&A advisory firm, partnering with MSOs between $10-100M in annual revenue, helping owners achieve maximum value through strategic growth and exits. Unlike traditional business brokers or large investment banks, Focus Advisors specializes exclusively in collision repair — giving owners unparalleled insight into value, interest and opportunity timing.

You May Also Like

NABC to Host Third Golf Fundraising Event of 2024

The NABC Changing and Saving Lives Foundation will host the third golf fundraising event of 2024 Sept. 9 at Boone Valley Golf Club in Augusta, Mo.

The National Auto Body Council (NABC) Changing and Saving Lives Foundation will host the third golf fundraising event of 2024 Sept. 9 at Boone Valley Golf Club in Augusta, Mo., just outside of St. Louis. The golf fundraiser presented by Enterprise will be followed by a Recycled Rides presention at the event. Player registration is now open, and sponsorships are available.

Honda Starts Production on 2025 Honda CR-V Fuel Cell EV

The all-new CR-V e:FCEV is the first production hydrogen FCEV in the U.S. to combine an all-new U.S.-made fuel cell system with plug-in EV charging capability.

I-CAR Launches I-CAR Academy New Early Career Tech Program

I-CAR Academy is the first industry-neutral, comprehensive early career program designed specifically to attract, train and retain technicians.

Spanesi Offers Technical Training at U.S. Headquarters

Spanesi is offering training courses from factory-trained individuals at its U.S. headquarters in Naperville, Ill.

SCRS Announces Repairer Driven Education Registration Now Open

RDE is the most comprehensive collision repair education series of the year, delivered live at the SEMA Show and then made available online for the industry.

Other Posts

IIHS Survey: Most Drivers OK with Anti-Speeding Tech in Vehicles

More than 60% of drivers would find it acceptable if their vehicle provided an audible and visual warning when they exceeded the posted speed limit.

TEXA Releases IDC5 CAR 76.6.0 Software Update

Innovation of the TEXA IDC5 software is focused on new vehicle coverage as well as new diagnostic feature functionality.

Crash Champions Expands Idaho Service

Crash Champions has announced the addition of its 11th Idaho location.

NABC Donates Recycled Ride to S.C. Army Widow

The NABC, GEICO and Better Collision recently donated a refurbished vehicle to the widow of a deceased military veteran.