“We have several stores right now that we’re looking at — from Syracuse, N.Y., through Bennington, Vt.,” said Enessa Carbone, who has been CEO of the Utica-N.Y.-based group. “We’re looking for acquisitions in that area.”
Carbone, 53, will now be a Lithia vice president, in charge of acquiring stores in the region. She said she has reached out to dealers aggressively and hopes to complete a purchase by the end of the year for Lithia.
Lithia, a public retailer based in Medford, Ore., made its first move into the Northeast with the 2014 acquisition of DCH Auto Group, which had stores in New Jersey and New York. Lithia’s geographic footprint had been concentrated in smaller, rural markets in the Northwest, but CEO Bryan DeBoer has aimed to take his company east of the Mississippi River. The DCH acquisition also put Lithia in urban markets in Southern California.
Carbone has stores in Vermont and upstate New York. it represents Honda, Subaru, Ford, Toyota, Chevrolet, GMC-Buick-Cadillac, Chry- sler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram, Nissan, Hyun-dai and BMW franchises. In pursuing acquisitions it will follow Lithia’s core strategy of exclusive-franchise stores in small-to-medium-sized markets.
“We have a Lithia-type model in the Northeast that we didn’t have before,” DeBoer said. “So it expands the pool of available stores that fit our strategy.”
The terms of the Carbone deal were not disclosed, but the acquisition adds about $600 million to Lithia’s annual revenue and raises Lithia’s dealership roster to 150. Lithia’s 2014 purchase of DCH added 27 stores and $2.6 billion to $3 billion in annual revenue.
Lithia and Carbone share a similar culture, DeBoer said.
“Their whole management team is staying and will be leading what we call Lithia of the Northeast,” he said. “Hopefully, that enables us to buy more stores in that area.”
Buy-sell adviser Erin Kerrigan, who represented Carbone, said there are plenty of buy-sell opportunities in the region as some dealers near retirement. Also, while many buyers have focused on acquisitions in the Sun Belt, Kerrigan said, “there’s not quite as much competition for acquisitions in the Northeast, which can result in attractive pricing.”