Lithia Motors Inc. reported record revenue and profits for the fourth quarter of 2020 as it also announced plans to more than double last year's pace of dealership acquisitions.
Lithia, the third-largest new-vehicle retailer in the U.S., said Wednesday that it posted net income of $187.6 million for the fourth quarter, more than 2.5 times the $68 million it earned in the fourth quarter of 2019. Revenue rose 21 percent to $3.94 billion.
The earnings news comes mere days after reports of Lithia's plans to acquire southeast Michigan's Suburban Collection, one of the nation's largest privately owned dealership groups. Executives for the Medford, Ore., company declined to comment on the reported Suburban deal but said Wednesday that Lithia in 2021 is likely to acquire dealerships representing more than $7 billion in additional annual revenue.
New- and used-vehicle sales and finance and insurance profit per vehicle increased by double-digit percentages in the quarter, driving growth at the retailer.
Lithia's adjusted net income just more than doubled to $145.9 million in the fourth quarter and excluded a benefit related to investment gains and gains on store sales, partially offset by acquisition expenses. Lithia's fourth-quarter 2019 adjusted results excluded charges for asset impairments and acquisition expenses, partially offset by store-sale gains.
CEO Bryan DeBoer in a statement called 2020 a "historic" year for Lithia, citing the launch of omnichannel retailing tool Driveway and dealership acquisitions adding $3.5 billion in annual revenue on top of record-breaking earnings results. Omnichannel retailing refers to technology and processes aimed at providing a seamless buying experience to consumers whether they shop online, in-store or both.
"We expanded our network at a record pace during 2020 and are just getting started," DeBoer said. "With our strong balance sheet and over $350 million of adjusted operating cash flows, we are well positioned for accelerated growth with the ability to add over $7 billion of additional revenue to our network this year."
Shares of Lithia closed Wednesday's trading up a fraction to $338.45
Since its announcement in July of a five-year plan to reach $50 billion in revenue by 2025, Lithia has acquired dealerships representing $3.3 billion in annual revenue. DeBoer said Wednesday that Lithia currently has $3 billion in planned acquisitions under contract that have yet to close.
During the last three months of 2020, Lithia purchased Latham Ford near Albany, N.Y.; Keyes Automotive Group in Southern California and Phoenix; Sterling Luxury Group in the Washington, D.C., area; and Ramsey Subaru-Mazda near Des Moines, Iowa. Those dealerships will generate $1.8 billion in annual revenues and expand the company's footprint in "key geographic locations," Lithia said.
Lithia also sold several stores in the quarter. Ray Laks Acura of Buffalo in Williamsville, N.Y., was sold to West Herr Automotive Group. Michael Coggins and Tripp Coggins purchased Bennington Honda and Bennington Toyota in Vermont, and Lexus of Oxnard and Lexus Santa Barbara in California were sold to Ken Garff Automotive Group. Medford BMW, Lithia Nissan of Medford and Lithia Medford Volkswagen in Oregon — stores in which Lithia had a 20 percent stake — were sold to Spartan Management Co.
Records: All-time records for net income, quarterly earnings per share, full-year earnings per share, quarterly revenue and full-year revenue.
Sales: New-vehicle sales rose 13 percent to 52,469 vehicles. Used-vehicle sales increased 12 percent to 47,731.
Same-store sales: New-vehicle sales on a same-store basis fell 5 percent to 42,398 vehicles, a sharper decline than the 2.4 percent drop in all U.S. new light-vehicle sales during the fourth quarter, according to the Automotive News Research & Data Center. Used-vehicle sales on a same-store basis slid 1.7 percent to 40,564.
Lithia reported full-year net income of $470.3 million, up 73 percent, and record revenue of $13.12 billion, up 3.6 percent from 2019. Lithia sold 171,168 new cars in 2020, down 5.2 percent from 2019. It sold 183,230 used vehicles, up 7.5 percent.
Lithia ranks No. 3 on Automotive News' list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S., with retail sales of 180,532 new vehicles in 2019.