Jackson will transition from his current role of chairman, CEO and president to executive chairman next year. In that role, he has extended his contract until 2021.
AutoNation’s board has hired executive search firm Spencer Stuart to find a replacement, and will consider both internal and external candidates.
Jackson is credited with being a transformative leader, who formed a single brand and strategy around a collection of dealerships around the country. He was hired by AutoNation founder Wayne Huizenga, while Jackson was head of Mercedes-Benz of America.
Since Jackson took over in October of 1999, AutoNation has generated about a 340 percent return for shareholders, the company said. In 2017, AutoNation’s revenue rose to $21.5 billion.
During his tenure, he focused the business on sales, service and finance, and expanded the dealership inventory beyond U.S. auto brands into a three-way split between domestics, luxury cars and imports.
He was a strong advocate for the automotive industry on issues around fuel and during the financial crisis, when large U.S. automakers like General Motors were struggling.
“The timing is right to transition the company to the next leader,” Jackson said in a statement.
AutoNation has been expanding its business to newer businesses, including services such as collision repair. It also is expanding its online presence.