Lithia Motors Inc. has shed 38 percent of its stand-alone Chrysler Group dealerships in less than two years in a bid to balance its brand portfolio, Lithia told analysts in its third-quarter earnings call.
At the end of the third quarter, Lithia, of Medford, Ore., had 23 stand-alone Chrysler Group stores, down from 37 stores at the end of the fourth quarter in 2007. Now dealerships selling Chrysler's brands are 27 percent of its 85-store network.
Lithia's goal is that no one brand account for more than a fifth of its sales.
Lithia, which went public in 1996, has been heavy in Chrysler's brands. Domestic stores were a plus in the company's many small-town markets favoring truck sales. But Chrysler's bankruptcy exposed the need to diversify Lithia's brand mix.
Chrysler brands represented 29 percent of Lithia's new-unit sales in the third quarter. In 2007, they accounted for 40 percent of its unit sales.
At the same time, Chrysler business is looking up at remaining stores. Chrysler's new-vehicle sales were up 11 percent at stores Lithia owned more than a year.
"Chrysler is finally hitting on more like six cylinders," said President Bryan DeBoer. "I'm pleased with what's happening."