Lithia Motors Inc. is investing $54 million into online used-car buying startup Shift Technologies Inc.
The money will help Shift expand technologically and geographically. It is part of a $140 million round of investment announced by Shift on Thursday. With the outlay, Lithia, the nation's fourth-largest dealership group, will become Shift's largest shareholder and will get a seat on the company's board of directors.
Lithia CEO Bryan DeBoer told Automotive News that the Shift investment fits into the company's ongoing strategy to support innovative companies with high earning potential. The two companies will launch a strategic partnership.
"Our basic strategy is to offer multiple channels for our consumers to be able to shop wherever, whenever and however they desire," DeBoer said. "This Shift investment helps formalize some of that thought process."
As part of the partnership, Shift aims to leverage the Medford, Ore., dealership group's physical infrastructure to supplement Shift's storage facilities.
"We'll continue to expand Shift's footprint. We'll expand into Lithia's footprint and into a brand-new space where neither Lithia nor Shift exist," Shift Co-CEO Toby Russell told Automotive News.
DeBoer sees potential in Shift's success with used-vehicle sales.
"What we know they have is a direct-to-consumer procurement model as well as pricing models that make it easier to dispose of that inventory, or procure that inventory, which is half of our battle," DeBoer said.
Additionally, deploying Shift's technologies through a brick-and-mortar retail network as large as Lithia's would give the San Francisco startup access to significantly more transaction data than it currently has. Lithia has over 75,000 vehicles available online, both new and used, DeBoer said.
Lithia ranks No. 4 on the Automotive News list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S., with retail sales of 167,146 new vehicles in 2017.
In addition to Lithia, the $140 million round of funding included outlays from investors including Alliance Ventures, BMW i Ventures, Goldman Sachs Investment Partners and Highland Capital.
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