In July 2021, when U.S. retail giant Lithia Motors was on the cusp of entering Canada, its first international market, CEO Bryan DeBoer pointed to the UK and Australia as additional possibilities for expansion but with a caveat: Those markets were probably two to five years out.
"So nothing urgent," DeBoer told analysts at that time.
But Lithia's chief appears to have sped up his interest.
A Sky News report this month named Lithia as the unidentified bidder in a failed deal to buy Pendragon, one of the UK's largest auto retailers. Pendragon, in an Aug. 5 regulatory filing, said a "large international corporate" presented "a board-approved non-binding offer" for the dealership group that was later withdrawn. The bid was valued at $558.35 million, according to a Reuters report.
A spokesman for publicly traded Pendragon, in an email, referred Automotive News to the Aug. 5 filing and declined to comment on the identity of the bidder. Tom Dobry, Lithia's vice president of marketing, in an email to Automotive News, said that it does not comment on "any potential acquisition activity until the transaction is complete."
But news of the failed deal points to just how serious Lithia, the second-largest U.S. dealership group in 2021 but the nation's top retailer of new vehicles through this year's first half, may be about spreading its footprint overseas.