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|Wednesday, June 24, 2009|
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.”
Wednesday, September 09, 2015
BY CHRIS NOBLE | ART DIRECTOR
Tuesday, September 08, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER
Alan Lehto, TriMet's director of policy & planning, shares a few thoughts on ride sharing and more nimble bus services.
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER
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Monday, October 05, 2015
VIDEO BY JESSE LARSON
Profiling some of the organizations featured in the 2015 list.
Monday, September 28, 2015
BY BEN DEJARNETTE
Controversial track star Nick Symmonds is leveraging his celebrity to grow a performance chewing-gum brand. Fans hail his marketing ploys as genius. Critics dub them shameless.
Thursday, October 01, 2015
PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN
Images from the big 2015 celebration of worker-friendly organizations that make a difference.
Thursday, September 10, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR
The Oregon Office of Economic Analysis released a report on the vitality of rural Oregon this week. Media reports focused on the number of Californians moving to the "Timber Belt," but the document contained other interesting insights regarding regional challenges and successes.
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