Unlike many auto dealers and dealership groups that see selling electric vehicles as a necessary burden, AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson believes electric vehicles offer a "historic opportunity" for the industry

Speaking at the Automotive News World Congress, Jackson recognized the challenges associated with electric vehicles, but said he also thinks plug-in cars will make up 15 to 20 percent of the U.S. market by 2030.

That's a lot of cars—and Jackson says AutoNation is well-placed to sell them when the time comes.

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According to Automotive News, Jackson isn't worried about the future of his company because it sells vehicles from nearly every brand and does business beyond simply new-car sales.

"I feel safe because I am differentiated," Jackson said. "And I have the ability to combine my unique scale and unique brand to extend into new fields of business that we have great opportunities in."

For instance, in November of last year, The New York Times reported a tie-up between AutoNation and Google's Waymo autonomous-driving unit.



Under that agreement, AutoNation will provide maintenance service for the Waymo fleet.

Pushing us toward an electrified future is China, which intends to cut emissions that have produced hazardous air pollution by mandating increasing sales of plug-in electric cars by all makers who want to sell vehicles in the country.

In the United States, state-level incentives add to a federal income-tax credit to make electric vehicles more affordable.

READ MORE: 2012 Tesla Model S 'First-Rate Car': AutoNation CEO

Automakers, Jackson said, are taking notice by investing "$50 billion ... into electric vehicles" globally.

The CEO of America's largest dealer group isn't one to hold back on speaking his mind.

In 2014, Jackson called Michigan's anti-Tesla law "unnecessary protectionism" at the hands of auto dealers, even though he doesn't believe Tesla's direct sales model is the right one for long-term growth.

The executive, who once led Mercedes-Benz USA, has also advocated raising the federal gas tax to spur interest in electric and alternative-fueled vehicles.


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