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US motor group Lithia looks at UK investment

Lithia Motors Inc, one of America’s fastest-growing retailer groups, may the follow the lead of UnitedAuto and buy a stake in UK motor retailing.

Jeff DeBoer, senior vice president and chief financial officer, says: “We watched Roger Penske acquire the Sytner Group and have seen his progress since. Our first priority is to pursue some of the many opportunities open to us in the US, but we would be interested in entering the British market if the opportunity arose.”

DeBoer is a graduate of London Business School and takes an active interest in motor retailing in the UK which he is visiting again this month.

Laurence Vaughan, Sytner chairman and United Auto board member, claims US investment groups have become very excited about prospects in the British retail automotive market. “Some other American dealer groups may well consider following United Auto’s lead – car selling is increasingly becoming a global business,” he says.

DeBoer believes the philosophy that has driven the development of the group since a stock market listing in 1996 applies equally to the UK. “We make sure we look after small town America,” he says. “We have also built a reputation for buying auto stores which are not performing to their potential.”

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