Lithia's quarter profitable for first time since 2007

While both new and used car sales were down in the first quarter of the year, Lithia Motors turned a profit for the first time in more than a year.

The Medford auto retailer said today it earned $200,000 from continuing operations in the first quarter, or 1 cent per share, the same as in 2008.

Its last profitable quarter was the third quarter of 2007.

Net income for the first quarter of 2009 was $1.33 million, or 6 cents per share, thanks to the sales of several stores and closing of others during the quarter. Lithia lost $2.16 million during the first quarter of 2008.

First quarter 2009 revenue totaled $398 million, compared to $567 million in the year-ago period, driven primarily by lower vehicle sales. Same-store sales declined 39.9 percent for new vehicles and 13 percent for used vehicles from sales in the same quarter last year.

"We are pleased to post a profit in the first quarter of 2009," Sid DeBoer, Lithia's chairman and chief executive said in a statement. "Despite the declining revenue base and decreasing same store sales, we were able to improve gross margins in each of our business lines and continue to reduce costs. As business conditions remain challenging, we have accelerated our cost reduction program. We now project our annualized cost savings on continuing operations to exceed $55 million."

— Greg Stiles

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