Lithia Motors’ Chief Executive Bryan DeBoer on Wednesday said his company could lead a consolidation of some publicly listed auto dealer groups to compete with online-only upstarts catering to younger, more internet-savvy car buyers.
DeBoer said mergers with three public companies would allow Lithia to expand more rapidly and turn its focus to building out its online sales platform.
“If there’s going to be consolidation in the industry, it’s most likely going to come from us,” DeBoer said. He declined to say whether talks were ongoing or name the companies he was interested in, but said they had good coverage of the central and southeastern parts of the United States.
Lithia has said it plans to further expand this year by acquiring smaller, individual dealerships.
“(Consolidation) does seem to make sense and could help focus all of our attention, as well as ensuring a greater pipeline of vehicles, eliminate other people from being able to enter the space and be able to compete for those used vehicles,” DeBoer said.
Six other large U.S. dealership groups are listed: AutoNation Inc, Group 1 Automotive Inc, Asbury Automotive Group Inc, Penske Automotive Group Inc, Sonic Automotive Inc. The companies did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Auto retailers have begun investing in online sales and vehicle delivery platforms after newer online-only companies like Carvana Co, Shift and Vroom saw growing consumer interest, but still largely earn their money through brick-and-mortar showrooms and repair services.
DeBoer said Lithia’s online sales platform, Driveway, was still in the early stages, but said the company planned to make it available across the United States by the end of the year.
Online sales would allow Lithia, which sells new cars to those up to 20 years old, to expand its customer base, rather than shift current retail customers online, DeBoer said.