Canadian expansion by U.S. public retailers has been tricky. Canadian automaker arms have historically opposed public ownership. AutoCanada, of Alberta, is currently the only public dealership group in the country.
But companies such as Ford Canada and General Motors Canada in recent years have reversed policies barring public ownership of dealerships.
DeBoer told Automotive News in 2018 that the retailer was looking to expand to Canada, saying that it "made sense" for maturing companies to expand internationally.
DeBoer last week said he expects Lithia's "acquisition cadence for the remainder of 2021 to remain strong as we build out our network within the United States and potentially internationally with the focus on English- speaking countries."
He told analysts that Lithia is interested in countries beyond the U.S. and Canada, mentioning the U.K. — where competitors Penske Automotive Group Inc. and Group 1 Automotive Inc. have dealerships — and Australia.
"Those are a little less relevant at today's date. Those are probably two to five years out, kind of where Canada was a few years ago. So nothing urgent," DeBoer said. "We really look at Canada as an extension of the United States. It has similar economic backgrounds; it has similar governmental regulation and so on. We feel very comfortable in that."
Lithia ranked No. 3 on Automotive News' most recent list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S., with retail sales of 171,168 new vehicles in 2020. But its April acquisition of 34 stores from Michigan's Suburban Collection vaulted Lithia past Penske to become the country's second-largest dealership group.