Lithia Motors is taking on AutoNation to become top dealer in U.S.

Lithia Motors has quietly turn out to be America’s most valued new car or truck retailer as it executes an audacious development strategy that the company expects will propel it previous AutoNation to grow to be the country’s top rated franchised dealership group.

The system involves hitting modified earnings for every share of $50 by 2025 as well as at minimum $50 billion in yearly income by then. That would be far more than double the measurement of any new U.S. dealership team to date.

“We imagine this is the foundation circumstance, and it is a thing that we believe is achievable,” CEO Bryan DeBoer claimed in a phone interview. “We also have aspirational options higher than that, that we are all centered on internally.”

The Medford, Oregon-dependent corporation is currently very well on its way to exceeding its 2025 targets. Because asserting the system a year back, it has included $8 billion in anticipated annualized income — double its initial annual target. Lithia suggests it has $15 billion additional in annualized earnings beneath deal.

Wall Avenue has taken see. Lithia’s inventory has skyrocketed 176% in the past two many years, together with a twofold improve to $358 a share considering that the five-calendar year strategy was declared. The stock topped $400 a share in March and April. By comparison, AutoNation is buying and selling at about $116 a share, up 145% in the previous two many years and 121% in the earlier 12 months.

A consolidation development among franchised dealers and historic income on autos thanks to small provides induced by a international semiconductor chip shortage are supporting to propel Lithia’s progress. It also not long ago released an on line automobile providing system known as Driveway to rival providers these types of as Carvana.

DeBoer, whose grandfather started the business in 1946 with one particular dealership, downplayed the importance of possibly turning into the major U.S. auto seller. He characterized it as a byproduct of Lithia’s mission to come to be the very first true national auto retailer with a keep inside 100 miles of every single customer.

“We never appear at it as a big feat. We look at it as an incremental system that takes place to transform out genuinely large,” DeBoer claimed. “We needed network density of 100 miles from 100% of the populace in the United States to be in a position to produce solutions to their residence inside of about a two-hour time frame.”

That radius is made to profitably offer you in-house product sales and expert services to buyers as well as give access for consumers who want to arrive into dealerships, according to DeBoer. The organization explained its around 260 locations are in about 400 miles of every single U.S. resident.


Morningstar analyst David Whiston, who has protected Lithia for 17 yrs, termed the firm’s five-year system “expansion on steroids” and “jaw dropping.” He reported 1 of the causes Lithia is special is due to the fact it mainly grew in rural spots before going into city markets.

“They are a great illustration of what at Morningstar we get in touch with successful scale, … in essence, a industry that is very best served by only a handful of entrants or players,” he said. “It is really a terrific enterprise.”

Lithia has obtained 83 shops in the earlier calendar year by way of a blend of funding, including a $1.8 billion equity and financial debt featuring in May perhaps. CFO Tina Miller claimed that must be the very last funding required to hit its 2025 prepare, outdoors of a transformative acquisition.

Lithia Motors CFO Tina Miller

Lithia Motors

Miller, in a independent interview, also downplayed the prospective of surpassing AutoNation but verified that the organization does count on to be the nation’s greatest vehicle retailer by the conclude of the approach.

“When we glimpse at the close of the plan with our acquisitions, with Driveway and that approach with the ability to go on to improve and enhance market place share, I do believe at the end of the strategy, we believe, will be the major in the business,” she mentioned.

Lithia vs. AutoNation

Lithia surpassed AutoNation in industry cap in June 2020, according to FactSet. It has continued to widen its lead with Lithia at $10.8 billion in marketplace cap in contrast with AutoNation’s $8.3 billion.

But AutoNation continues to be far more of a home identify and carries on to guide in many means. For case in point, the Fort Lauderdale, Florida-dependent firm’s bonds are expenditure quality, the gold conventional in company financial debt and creating it cheaper to elevate income. Lithia’s are marginally underneath. Miller reported the corporation believes it can get its bonds upgraded by the conclusion of this 12 months, if not early 2022.

“We keep on to accomplish the way that we will need to to clearly show that we have the toughness and small business design and the regularity and functionality to keep that financial commitment quality and keep on to have that discipline that’s essential,” she explained.

AutoNation is executing its very own acquisition and expansion approach, which include the addition of 130 made use of auto suppliers through 2026, assisting increase income and increase product sales of new and made use of vehicles. It expects to offer 1 million motor vehicles every year by then. Earlier this yr, it also signed an acquisition settlement of 11 dealerships which is predicted to deliver about $380 million in once-a-year revenue.

AutoNation Chief Client Encounter Officer Marc Cannon declined to directly comment on Lithia’s designs. In an e mail, he said AutoNation has “a sturdy pipeline” and carries on “to glimpse for those that fit perfectly with tactic and society. The AutoNation United states is a tremendous prospect for development and expansion into new markets.”

AutoNation continues to lead Lithia in sizing as nicely. It owns and operates a lot more than 300 destinations in the U.S. Its car product sales by means of the initial half of the yr were being up 32% to 298,894, which include 146,525 new vehicles. That compares with Lithia’s 260 places. Its profits as a result of the very first 50 percent of the calendar year ended up up 65% to 258,321, which includes 129,040 new cars.

AutoNation’s profits past yr was $20.4 billion compared with Lithia at $13.1 billion. Via the to start with half of this year, Lithia has closed that hole with $10.4 billion in profits as opposed with AutoNation’s $12.9 billion.

“I think everyone’s acknowledged that there is a great deal of place for much more consolidation,” Whiston explained. “Lithia just decided to be way more intense about it since they assumed they could and plainly they can.”

 Lithia is rated chubby with a suggest price tag target by analysts of $468.58 a share, in accordance to FactSet. That compares with AutoNation at a keep score with a suggest price target of $124.50 a share.

In a observe to traders final thirty day period, Gordon Haskett Investigation Advisors analyst Don Bilson claimed: “Lithia’s fifty-greenback engine is purring.” He mentioned while Lithia trades at a considerable premium to other sellers, it really is “not tough to picture this currently being a $700 or $800 stock in a handful of many years.”

Market place caps for Lithia and AutoNation continue to be beneath utilized car or truck merchants such as CarMax at $22.3 billion and Carvana at $57 billion.

– CNBC’s Michael Bloom contributed to this report.