Home Archives July 2009 Lithia burns rubber – in reverse

Lithia burns rubber – in reverse

| Print |  Email
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
lithiaCEO Sid DeBoer
After racing into the top tier of the nation’s auto dealers and Oregon’s top public companies, Medford-based Lithia Motors has slammed it into reverse with rubber-burning decisiveness, selling off dealerships as ruthlessly as it once bought them to avoid driving off a cliff.

Lithia went public in 1996 and grew from five stores to more than 90 over one freewheeling decade. CEO Sid DeBoer had hoped to build the company into an $11 billion empire by 2011, but that was before his key suppliers, Chrysler and GM, fizzled into bankruptcy. Lithia struggled mightily in 2008, losing $252 million for the year.

But then a surprising thing happened in the first quarter of 2009: Lithia posted a profit. Its stock, which bottomed out at $2 per share in April, rebounded powerfully on news that Chrysler’s abrupt elimination of 789 underperforming stores would help rather than hurt Lithia. “We lost two stores, but we should be able to pick up nine additional franchises in five of our current locations,” says DeBoer.

Three Lithia stores are also at risk from the GM bankruptcy, but it could have been much worse. Lithia minimized its losses by deciding in the fourth quarter of 2007 to begin conserving cash and selling off unnecessary assets. The company sold 14 dealerships in 2008 and has lightened its debt load from $269 million to $45 million while slashing its workforce from about 6,000 to 4,300. “It was painful,” says DeBoer. “A lot of people lost their jobs and we lost some stores that we would like to have kept in good times.”

But it worked. According to DeBoer, sales in May exceeded Lithia’s projections. “All the stores we’ve sold or closed were losing money,” he says. “We will make more money without them.”

It won’t be a Sunday drive. Lithia still has 11 dealerships on the market as of press time, and gas prices are rising again. But DeBoer says he feels much better about Lithia’s position than he did a year ago, and he’s thankful he called for the radical shift in strategy sooner rather than later.

“Having lived in the car business since 1964,” he says, “I’ve learned that those who act the fastest get through these things in the best shape.”
BEN JACKLET
 

More Articles

The Scott Kveton affair

News
Wednesday, July 09, 2014
ScottKvetonBY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

Scott Kveton, the CEO of Urban Airship is taking a leave of absence from the company. As the story continues to unfold, here’s our perspective on a few of the key players.


Read more...

Portland rises

News
Monday, August 18, 2014

IMG 2551Portland is in the middle of another construction boom, with residential and office projects springing up downtown, in the Pearl and Old Town. OB Web Editor Jessica Ridgway documents the new wave.


Read more...

Who said we should sell in May?

Contributed Blogs
Friday, July 18, 2014
BullMarketBY JASON NORRIS | OB GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

Back in May, we shared a common Wall Street quote about investing, “Sell in May and go away.” Fast forward to July and the most common question we have been getting from clients is, “When is the market pullback going to occur?”


Read more...

Register for 100 Best Companies survey

News
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
OBM-100-best-logo-2015 150pxwBy Kim Moore | OB Editor

The 2015 survey launched this week. It is open to for-profit private and public companies that have at least 15 full- or part-time employees in Oregon.


Read more...

Green Endeavor cleans up

News
Wednesday, August 06, 2014
080614 ULnew greenendeavorBY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

Portland startup Green Endeavor strikes gold, inking a partnership with Underwriters Laboratories, an Illinois-based consulting and certification company with offices in 46 countries.


Read more...

Attack of the Robin Sages

Contributed Blogs
Monday, July 07, 2014
070714 thumb linkedinfakesBY TOM COX | OB BLOGGER

Named after the 2010 experiment by Thomas Ryan, "Robin Sages" are fake social media profiles designed to encourage linking and divulging valuable information.


Read more...

Managing family assets: The importance of planning ahead

News
Friday, August 22, 2014
Unknown-1BY CLIFF HOCKLEY |  OB GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

When business intersects with family, a host of  situations can arise. Without a clear vision and careful planning, hard-earned investments can become stressful burdens.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS