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Penske eyes Australian retail expansion

Roger that: American automotive businessman Roger Penske could soon expand his retail empire to Australian shores.

US car retailing czar Roger Penske is on the grid in Australia with more to come

2 Mar 2015

A NEW chapter in Australian motorsport could signal similarly seismic changes for the automotive retail industry, with American billionaire Roger Penske eyeing further opportunities Down Under.

The new-look Dick Johnson Racing Team Penske's appearance on the grid at the Clipsal 500 – with returning two-time titleholder Marcos Ambrose at the wheel of the team's single-car entry – could also signal Penske involvement elsewhere.

The 78-year-old former racer landed in Adelaide just prior to the start of the V8 Supercar season last week to watch over DJR Team Penske’s first V8 Supercar appearance and hinted that the retail side of the Australian automotive industry could be the next step for the Penske brand.

"There's also an opportunity that we are looking at here at some point in retail automotive if it fits into our global footprint,” he said.

"We need to digest both the truck distribution and MTU businesses over the next 12 months, but out of the corner of my eye I can see an opportunity in retail automotive.”

While not elaborating on specific intentions, Mr Penske said almost three-quarters of the Penske car retail business was premium luxury.

"It's not our first priority today but maybe there's a group we could look at to tuck into our global business footprint."Stretching across the United States, United Kingdom and Western Europe, the Penske Corporation empire covers 41 brands and 340 franchises across the globe and revenues of more than US$19 billion ($A24.3bn).

That includes MTU Detroit Diesel (in a deal done last year), Western Star and MAN truck interests since late 2014 in Australia, with former Nissan Motorsport and HSV executive John Crennan working for Penske Corporation in Australia.

The Penske Automotive Group has a stable of dealerships comprising Acura, Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Audi, Bentley, BMW, Bugatti, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Citroen, Dodge, Ferrari, Fiat, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Infiniti, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Jeep, Lamborghini, Lexus, Maserati, McLaren and Volkswagen among the key brands.

Mr Penske said the involvement in Australian motorsport is not a "short-term stay" and added that he expects the team to be in the top half of the table by the end of the season.

"As I look at 2015, I think we've accomplished a number of things, we're here and we're partnered with Dick Johnson ... it's going to be a building year.

We've got funding for one car the right way, we're starting with Marcos who's a known quantity, we can build around that," he said.

Industry expectation is that the 2016 season will bring with it a two-car Penske effort and the group’s success in US motorsport would mean high expectations of the Australian DJR-based team going forward.

Roger Penske, father of five, is known as “The Captain" and has been involved in motorsport since the early 1960s – so far he has a tally of 27 national championships – including 13 Indycar titles.

The Penske Corporation operates in a variety of industry segments and employs around 40,000 people worldwide, but it’s the Penske Performance arm that runs teams in the Verizon IndyCar Series, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series and now the V8 Supercar Championship with Dick Johnson Racing.

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