Lithia Motors Inc., which became the nation’s second-largest new-vehicle retailer in 2021 because of its aggressive acquisition strategy, appears well on its way to overtaking AutoNation Inc. for the No. 1 spot this year.
AutoNation reported selling 56,442 new vehicles in the U.S. during the first quarter, while Lithia reported new-vehicle sales of 64,942 for the period, including a small but undisclosed number sold in Canada.
“We really characterize our performance as resilient,” Tom Dobry, Lithia’s vice president of marketing, told Automotive News last month. “Our team did a good job of emphasizing that our decentralized structure that allows our stores to be nimble and agile in their local markets, to buy more used vehicles, or lower prices to turn inventory faster, were keys to our performance.”
Dobry didn’t respond to a request to comment on Lithia’s sales outpacing AutoNation.
Publicly traded dealership groups continue to feel the impact of new-vehicle shortages. AutoNation has reported some of the lowest new-vehicle days’ supply numbers in its peer group in recent quarters.
AutoNation reported its new-vehicle supply was just eight days at the end of March, down a day from the end of December. Lithia reported a 27-day supply of new vehicles as of March 31, up slightly from 24 as of December. The two aren’t comparable, as Lithia’s calculations include in-transit vehicles.
Lithia has long been on an acquisition tear. The 2021 efforts were led by its purchase of Michigan’s 34-store Suburban Collection. AutoNation bought 20 franchised dealerships in 2021 in two large transactions.