Daniel Imbro, an analyst with Stephens Inc., said the Jardine Motors acquisition gives Lithia an opportunity to work with automakers and get familiar with the agency model.
“This should give them some expertise operating under that system that could better position them in the U.S. if it ever were to come over here,” Imbro said.
DeBoer said exposure to the agency model adds a secondary benefit: getting early insights into how manufacturers and dealers can work together “to benefit the consumer.”
“We as an organization believe that a more seamless customer process and more transparent process is better,” DeBoer said.
“I think the goal of an agency model is to do that. It’s just who takes what responsibility in that. I think with a few manufacturers now turning to agency in the United Kingdom and Western Europe, it would be good to be able to see how that occurs.”
Lithia’s Driveway platform, which allows customers to buy, sell and trade cars online, and GreenCars, an online resource and marketplace for new and used zero-emission vehicles, may expand in the U.K. at some point, DeBoer said.
“That’s usually our strategy,” DeBoer said. But “we went into Canada, what, about two years ago now, and we’re only doing light work with GreenCars and no real work with Driveway yet.
“However, in the United Kingdom, there’s different branding hopes of the manufacturer partners and we may end up deciding to do something.”
Jardine Motors is Europe’s 23rd-largest dealership group by annual revenue, according to Automotive News Europe‘s 2022 Guide to Europe’s Biggest Dealers. The transaction also included Jardine Select used-car stores.
Lithia, of Medford, Ore., last year outsold AutoNation Inc. to become the largest auto retailer in the U.S., with sales of 271,596 new vehicles. Lithia’s figures encompass a small but undisclosed number of vehicles sold in Canada, including those from a Harley-Davidson store, as well as RVs.
As with previous Lithia acquisitions, key leadership is staying in place. Jardine Motors CEO Neil Williamson will retain that role and become a regional president of Lithia and Driveway. DeBoer said Lithia had been looking for a good management team more than anything and that Williamson, who’s been with Jardine for about 10 years, brings that desired U.K. market expertise.