Lithia is looking to grow through acquisitions and its digital offerings. The company's online strategy is to provide a car-buying experience wherever, whenever and however consumers desire it. DeBoer spoke with Staff Reporter Jackie Charniga. Here are edited excerpts.
Q: What does it mean for you to be No. 1?
A: Everything we're doing is about providing more optionality to the consumer. To me, the only way you get to that level is to have a culture of people that are empowered to do that. We can talk about modernization efforts and digital technology, and we talk about our footprint with our manufacturer partners and so on. But [by] creating greater optionality for our consumers, that will take us to a higher level by allowing our people to find the solutions for our consumers.
What do you discuss with dealers and potential acquisition targets? Any concerns on the direction of the industry?
Anytime we're looking for partnering with a new dealership group, it's more of a long-term play. Whatever's happening in the environment today is probably less important to that relationship. It's more of, is there a cultural fit? And to explain how Lithia Motors approaches acquisitions and how we are going to take care of their people in the same way that they do, where we give seniority from their time at the previous dealership so they feel like they've always been with Lithia.
I do believe it's a pretty darn stable environment right now.
What have you learned about your customers from selling and procuring cars remotely?
I don't believe most consumers are looking for that dramatic of shift. Now, I would also say that we as new-car dealers believe consumers want to buy a certain way because we provide one solution. The deeper we get into this, the more we uncover that consumers say they like doing it because it's one of the only options that they have.
How are consumers in your test markets responding to the added options?
In Pittsburgh or in L.A., where we're providing home-delivery solutions and rental or loaner cars — where we'll take the car and then go pick up their cars so they never have to come into the dealership — the days of wanting them to see our wonderful facilities isn't as important as trying to do things the way they want. ... You have to move at the speed of consumers. ... There's a million different ways that consumers deserve to be able to buy or service their vehicles. And we're going to provide them that.