Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst John Murphy, during a call last week with analysts, asked DeBoer if framework agreements — those between manufacturers and certain dealership companies that limit the number of franchises they can operate — would impede Lithia's growth plans.
"You've set out sort of long-term goals that are big … and you've been hitting those, so we have to take everything you're saying very seriously," Murphy said. "But the 5 percent market share nationally in the new-vehicle market does sound a bit high."
DeBoer said Lithia typically buys strong, underperforming stores that it improves, and that play has helped bring value to manufacturer partners.
"Our current framework agreements in their entirety allow us to get considerably beyond 5 percent," he told analysts. "So as long as our performance stays at the levels that we're currently at and we're able to bring value and improvements, then there shouldn't be framework limitations like others may or may not have."
Morningstar Inc. analyst David Whiston said while 5 percent market share is far down the road, it's possible for Lithia to reach.
"You can get there because the whole dealership space is consolidating," he said, adding that Lithia would need to be even more aggressive with store purchases.
And Whiston said Lithia's moves at the end of 2019 to amend and extend its credit line and raise $400 million may indicate the retailer has some large deals coming.
"Either they're looking to make a lot of small or medium deals, or they're getting ready to do a big one, a really big one," he said.
Lithia, of Medford, Ore., ranks No. 3 on Automotive News' list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S., with retail sales of 184,601 new vehicles in 2018.