Lithia saw its new-vehicle sales lead over AutoNation widen throughout 2022. Lithia had a lead of 8,500 vehicles through the first quarter and expanded it to 19,362 vehicles at midyear. Through the third quarter, Lithia was up by 33,540 vehicles.
Both companies felt the impact of new-vehicle supply shortages in 2022 with same-store new-vehicle sales down significantly for both companies. AutoNation had reported some of the lowest new-vehicle days’ supply numbers in its peer group in 2021 and 2022.
AutoNation CEO Mike Manley on Feb. 17 described the retailer’s inventory and days’ supply as “still very, very low.”
AutoNation didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on falling to second place.
In the past, and as recently as Jan. 20, AutoNation billed itself as “America’s largest and most admired automotive retailer.” However, in AutoNation’s two most recent press releases, including its fourth-quarter earnings release issued Feb. 17, the label was changed to just “America’s most admired automotive retailer.”
AutoNation’s run in the top spot comes to an end after a quarter century.
AutoNation, initially known as Republic Industries Inc., had been No. 1 since 1997 for new-vehicle sales as tracked by Automotive News in its annual list of top dealership groups.
Lithia, meanwhile, worked its way up the ranking, first cracking the top 10 in 1999 in the 10th spot. Lithia long ranked the lowest of the six major public dealership groups and moved between the No. 9 and No. 8 spots between 2000 and 2014. That was the last year it held the bottom spot among the publics and also the year it started its buying binge with the purchase of DCH Auto Group. Lithia hit No. 5 in 2015, No. 4 in 2016 and No. 3 in 2018.
Lithia passed Penske Automotive Group Inc. for the No. 2 spot in 2021.
C.J. Moore and Mark Hollmer contributed to this report.