Lithia buys Pa. Honda store from troubled dealership group

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Lithia Motors Inc., in its second acquisition this year from an ailing dealership group, has bought Hazleton Honda in Hazle Township, Pa.

A spokesman for the nation’s third-largest new-vehicle retailer on Wednesday said Lithia bought the store in eastern Pennsylvania, expanding its footprint in the Northeast, from industry veteran Michael Saporito and former NFL linebackers Jessie Armstead and Antonio Pierce.

Lithia said the dealership is expected to generate about $50 million in annual revenue. The store was the only of four dealerships owned by the trio in an auto mall in Hazle Township that remained open after lawsuits last year filed against the owners by Nissan Motor Acceptance Corp. and Hyundai Capital America.

A Hyundai store, Kia dealership and Nissan store in Hazle Township, plus two Nissan stores in Michigan, closed after lawsuits by the captive finance companies that alleged the stores sold millions of dollars of vehicles without repaying floorplan loans, known in the industry as selling vehicles out of trust.

Lithia said Hazleton Honda is between Lithia stores in western Pennsylvania and New Jersey and New York and is consistent with the company’s strategy to buy dealerships with strong brands that have ample earnings opportunities.

“We’re excited to welcome the existing team and their expertise to expand our customer offerings and market share,” Lithia CEO Bryan DeBoer said in a statement.

In May, Lithia announced it bought Hamilton Honda in Hamilton Township, N.J., a high-volume Honda dealership, from Saporito and Armstead. DeBoer told Automotive News then that Lithia was not interested in buying other stores from the group. The group was believed to also be operating a Cadillac store in New Jersey.

“We take these transactions one at a time, especially if there are circumstances that may make them a bit more complex,” Eric Pitt, Lithia’s vice president of investor relations, wrote in an email. “We also do not comment on acquisition targets until the transactions are finalized.”

Pitt said no brokers were involved in the Hazleton Honda transaction. The purchase price was undisclosed.

Lithia, of Medford, Ore., ranks No. 3 on Automotive News‘ list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S., with retail sales of 184,601 new vehicles in 2018.

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