Lithia Motors goes big in Michigan

The Suburban deal is one of the industry’s largest-ever dealership acquisitions, and it positions Lithia — the third-largest dealership group in the country in 2020 — to vault past Penske into the No. 2 spot on Automotive News‘ list of the top 150 dealership groups in the U.S. as ranked by new-vehicle retail sales.

Lithia retailed 7,269 fewer new vehicles than Penske in 2020. Suburban reported 29,314 new-vehicle retail sales in 2020 and was No. 21 Automotive News’ list.
Suburban’s portfolio is a mix of domestic, import and luxury brands. It has six General Motors, four Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram and three Ford stores.

Lithia used money raised in equity and debt offerings last October to pay for the deal, estimated at $500 million.

Lithia now has 246 dealerships, passing AutoNation Inc. in terms of store count and giving Lithia the largest network of franchised stores in the country.

Fischer Jr., 51, said that his responsibilities will stay the same as he oversees the Suburban dealerships, which will continue to use that name.

Suburban dates to 1948, when Dick Fischer opened an Oldsmobile dealership in Birmingham, Mich.

In 2019, Suburban majority owner David Fischer Sr., Dick Fischer’s son, became U.S. ambassador to Morocco and his son, Fischer Jr., took over as Suburban’s CEO.

More than a year ago, Fischer Jr. and his father, now 74, began exploring the idea of selling the dealerships and were first interested in teaming with an equity partner. The aim was to financially diversify, Fischer Jr. said.

Last fall, they began working with Presidio Group, a buy-sell advisory firm based in San Francisco. By December, talks “heated up” with Lithia, a group with many similarities, Fischer Jr. said.

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