Lithia Motors Inc., which receives almost 30 percent of its sales from Chrysler Group brands, doesn't plan to seek much Fiat business as the Italian automaker prepares to reenter the U.S.market.
Chrysler dealers have been invited to apply for about 200 available Fiat franchises to be awarded later this year. Lithia CEO Sid DeBoer said Thursday that he's not yet sure whether Lithia, the nation's ninth largest retailer, will go after the franchises.
“We're not in a lot of the markets that they're targeting,” DeBoer said. “It's not going to be a major initiative for us.”
DeBoer said Lithia has one Chrysler store with an empty showroom on its property – and that acquiring the Fiat franchise might be a good solution for that location. Lithia executives will attend an August briefing in Detroit to learn more about the Fiat opportunity.
Fiat acquired management control of Chrysler in 2009 as part of a federal government bailout.
In the meantime, Lithia continues to reduce its exposure to Chrysler by selling some stores and buying dealerships that sell non-Chrysler brands.
Lithia sold a Dodge store in Fresno, Calif., earlier this month, trimming its roster of stand-alone Chrysler stores to 23 from a peak of 37. Lithia now derives 28.8 percent of its new-vehicle unit sales from Chrysler stores, down from 30.3 percent a year ago.
DeBoer made the comments about Fiat in a conference call detailing Lithia's second-quarter results.
Lithia posted a $1.7 million loss because of charges related to writing down the value of real estate holdings. Without the charges, Lithia said it had adjusted net income from continuing operations of $7.1 million, up from a comparable figure of $4.6 million a year ago.
Lithia's revenues rose 20 percent in the second quarter, to $534 million. New-vehicle unit sales were up 22 percent. Used-vehicle retail unit sales were up 12 percent.