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Trak Auto acquiring Pittsburgh chain It will buy 15 stores and open 10 more


Trak Auto Corp. yesterday announced that it will spend $6 million to purchase a chain of 15 automotive parts-repair stores in the Pittsburgh area and that it plans to open another 10 outlets there by year-end 1996.

The Landover-based retailer's agreement with National Auto Stores, a chain owned by WSR Corp. of New York, is expected to close by the end of February.

Trak Auto officials said the acquisition represents the first expansion since the Dart Group Corp. unit began a restructuring two years ago and hinted that other sizable expansion-oriented purchases could follow.

"We're prepared to move aggressively when opportunities arise," Trak Auto President Keith Green said through a spokesman.

The Trak Auto purchase comes amid turmoil and internal strife within Dart, whose founder, Herbert Haft, and his son, Ronald Haft, have been feuding since mid-1993. The family fortune -- which also contains a controlling stake in discounter Crown Books Corp. -- is estimated at between $500 million and $1 billion.

Dart maintains a 68 percent ownership stake in Trak Auto, which in the 39-week period ended Oct. 28 reported a 25 per-cent decline in net income to $6.2 million. Sales fell to $254.2 million, a decline of nearly 5 percent.

Trak Auto, which intends to keep National Auto's 300 employees, also plans to convert the stores in the image of its super-store concept, offering an in-stock availability of 35,000 auto parts and remanufactured engines.

The National Auto outlets will increase Trak Auto's number of stores to 282 in Washington, Richmond, Los Angeles and Chicago.

In announcing the National Auto deal, Trak Auto officials said the Pittsburgh area contains a strong population of cars and the demographic mix the company seeks.

Stanley Rubenstein, a Trak Auto spokesman, said the deal made sense also because it involved the opportunity to purchase a chain rather than simply one or two stores. The size of the purchase also will allow Trak Auto to advertise effectively, and Pittsburgh is close enough to be served by the company's Maryland distribution center.

WSR, which in turn is owned by Stonington Partners, also of New York, is in the process of selling four auto parts chains nationwide.

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