When Sid DeBoer took over his family's Chrysler-Dodge dealership in Ashland, Ore., in 1968, he laid the foundation for an auto retail group that would be among the first to go public in the late 1990s.
DeBoer moved the family-owned store to nearby Medford, Ore., in 1970. That city remains the headquarters for DeBoer's company, Lithia Motors Inc. DeBoer expanded the company slowly, using its profits to buy more dealerships while avoiding debt. He took Lithia public in 1996.
Today, Lithia sells 27 brands at 88 new-vehicle dealerships in 13 states. Half of its dealerships sell Detroit 3 brands. Only a small number sell luxury vehicles. DeBoer's strategy for growth: Buy underperforming dealerships in small, often rural, markets where competition is less intense than in major metropolitan areas. Lithia sought to buy dealerships -- but not their real estate -- for about 10 percent of a store's revenues.