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Lithia Motors logs a record quarter for revenue

Mail Tribune

Lithia Motors stayed on a roll during the first quarter of 2014, reporting a 12.1 percent increase in its net income to more than $24.7 million, up from $22.1 million in early 2013.

The Medford auto retailer reported revenue of nearly $1.1 billion in the quarter, up 19.4 percent from $903.1 million a year earlier.

The company's adjusted net income from continuing operations for the quarter was $27.1 million, or $1.03 per share, compared to $21.9 million, or 84 cents per share a year ago.

Lithia reported same-store sales, which exclude new stores, jumped 12 percent over last year, new-vehicle same-store sales rose 10 percent, and used-vehicle same-store sales soared 19 percent.

Lithia CEO Bryan DeBoer told analysts that gains in service, body and parts sales, as well as warranty work, contributed to the record month.

"March was a solid month for national new-car sales ... the highest level since November 2007," DeBoer said. "March was also the best month in our company's history in both revenue and pre-tax profit."

DeBoer said Lithia store leaders increased used-vehicle volume by 12 percent, edging closer to the company's goal of selling 75 used units per store per month.

"We believe opportunities remain for continued improvement and are optimistic for 2014," he said.

Lithia operates 100 stores again for the first time since it restructured during the credit crunch of 2008. During the first quarter, the company bought Island Honda, Honolulu GMC Buick Cadillac, and Honolulu Volkswagen in Hawaii, and Stockton Volkswagen in Stockton, Calif.

Earlier this month, it acquired Access Ford Lincoln in Corpus Christi, Texas, and opened Lithia Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram of Wasilla in Wasilla, Alaska.

"We've purchased eight stores and opened one location since October 2013, with total estimated annual revenues of $380 million," DeBoer said. "This represents an increase of 9 percent over our full year 2013 total revenues."

Lithia ended the quarter with $22 million in the cash till and $133 million in available credit. It also has approximately $193 million in real estate, which could produce $145 million worth of liquidity.

The company announced a 16-cent per share dividend for the first quarter, an increase of 3 cents over the previous quarter. It will be paid on May 23 to shareholders of record on May 9.

Investors responded to Lithia's news by bidding up the price $1.33 higher to $71.44.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness, friend him on Facebook and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/Economic Edge.

Correction: This headline has been corrected to reflect the appropriate period.

Scottie Scott of Prospect checks out a new Chrysler Jeep at the Lithia dealership on Highway 62 in April 2013. - file photo