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Lithia withdraws outlook, cites weak car sales

1/07/2008 - 21:43

DETROIT (Reuters) - U.S. auto dealer Lithia Motors Inc said on Tuesday it would withdraw its earnings outlook, citing weak June vehicle sales and the shift in consumer demand due to rising gas prices.

Lithia said it would continue with a restructuring plan it laid out in early June and had successfully raised $45.1 million of new capital during the second quarter from the financing and sale-leaseback of real estate.

"We have not been immune to the drop in national sales volumes for most every manufacturer we represent," Lithia Chairman and Chief Executive Sid DeBoer said in a statement. "Until these factors stabilize, predicting future earnings is difficult."

The Medford, Oregon-based dealer withdrew forecasts for the second quarter and for the year. It plans to discuss more details of the restructuring plans later in July.

U.S. carmakers and dealers have been struggling with what has now been described as a permanent shift in consumer demand toward cars and crossovers and away from large trucks and SUVs in the face of rising gas prices and a slumping U.S. economy.

Automakers reported a plunge in sales for June, especially in the larger trucks and SUVs, and a constrained supply of the smaller vehicles that customers were seeking.

In early June, Lithia said it planned to cut jobs and reduce its exposure to underperforming U.S. car brands to offset falling sales in a restructuring that would save about $18 million per year in costs. Those savings would be on top of annual cost cuts of about $6 million announced in April.

The company posted a loss in the first quarter amid slumping industry sales.

(Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Andre Grenon)


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