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Lithia acquires century-old New York dealership

Lithia Motors has added a family-owned dealership in upstate New York that was founded nearly a century ago.

The Medford auto retailer has purchased Armory Garage, according to the Times Union of Albany, New York. Armory Garage, which sells Chrysler, Dodge, Ram, Jeep and Fiat products, will retain its name and current leadership, the dealership said in a statement.

The dealership was founded by Anthony Metzner in 1918 at a time when cars were stored in the winter and people opted to use a horse and buggy instead. In the 1920s, the dealership was houseD in a five-story building with vehicles displayed behind floor-to-ceiling windows on every floor. The showroom, which allowed Armory to display 200 cars in a 35,000-square-foot facility, helped earn the dealership recognition from Automotive News a decade ago as one of the most innovative car dealerships in the nation. In 2015, the founder's grandson, Donald Metzner, became CEO of the firm.

"Much like Armory Garage, Lithia began as a family enterprise, deeply rooted in local communities," Armory said in a statement. "Lithia and Armory Garage express confidence that this transaction is an ideal blend of shared values and a strong culture of providing exceptional customer service."

Lithia shares closed at 122.28 on the New York Stock Exchange Monday, near the 123.50 year-high mark and not far from its all-time high of 126.56 in November 2015. With the acquisition of Armory, Lithia Motors now operates 168 stores in 18 states.

Lithia has steadily added dealerships and small chains in the Northeast following its acquisition of DCH, which gave the auto retailer a foothold in the region in 2014. Two publications have reported Lithia is poised to enter the Buffalo, New York, market.

Buffalo Business First and The Buffalo News wrote Lithia could close on a deal for Ray Laks' Honda and Acura dealerships as earlier as next month. Laks has had a Honda franchise since 1971; the dealership was formerly in West Seneca. Laks opened an Acura dealership, initially in Orchard Park, in 1986 after Honda created the new division.

In September 2016, Lithia bought the Carbone Group, which has stores in Utica and Albany, and has kept the Carbone name on the stores. Last May, Lithia expanded into Pennsylvania, buying a Pittsburgh-based auto group.

Lithia is No. 4 on Automotive News's list of the 150 largest dealer groups, based on 2016 new vehicle sales. Telephone calls to Lithia Motors were not immediately returned.

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