Lithia Motors 10-K 2018
Documents found in this filing:
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
WASHINGTON, D. C. 20549
[X] ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE
SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the Fiscal Year Ended: December 31, 2017
[ ] TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE
SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
Commission File Number: 001-14733
LITHIA MOTORS, INC.
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
(Registrant’s telephone number including area code)
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None
(Title of Class)
Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act: Yes [X] No[ ]
Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act: [ ]
Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the Registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days: Yes [X] No [ ]
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically and posted on its corporate Web site, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§ 232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit and post such files). Yes [X] No [ ]
Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of Registrant’s knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K, or any amendment to this Form 10-K. [ ]
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer” and “smaller reporting company,” and "emerging growth company" in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act. Large accelerated filer [X] Accelerated filer [ ] Non-accelerated filer [ ] (Do not check if a smaller reporting company) Smaller reporting company [ ] Emerging growth company [ ]
If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. [ ]
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act). Yes [ ] No [ X ]
The aggregate market value of the voting and non-voting common equity held by non-affiliates of the Registrant was approximately $2,236,488,000 computed by reference to the last sales price ($94.23) as reported by the New York Stock Exchange for the Registrant’s Class A common stock, as of the last business day of the Registrant’s most recently completed second fiscal quarter (June 30, 2017).
The number of shares outstanding of the Registrant’s common stock as of February 23, 2018 was: Class A: 24,020,790 shares and Class B: 1,000,000 shares.
Documents Incorporated by Reference
The Registrant has incorporated into Part III of Form 10-K, by reference, portions of its Proxy Statement for its 2018 Annual Meeting of Shareholders.
LITHIA MOTORS, INC.
2017 FORM 10-K ANNUAL REPORT
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Item 1. Business
Certain statements in this Annual Report, including in the sections entitled “Risk Factors,” “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and “Business” constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Generally, you can identify forward-looking statements by terms such as “project”, “outlook,” “target”, “may,” “will,” “would,” “should,” “seek,” “expect,” “plan,” “intend,” “forecast,” “anticipate,” “believe,” “estimate,” “predict,” “potential,” “likely,” “goal,” “strategy,” “future,” “maintain,” and “continue” or the negative of these terms or other comparable terms. Examples of forward-looking statements in this Form 10-K include, among others, statements we make regarding:
The forward-looking statements contained in this Annual Report involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and situations that may cause our actual results to materially differ from the results expressed or implied by these statements. Some of those important factors are discussed in Part I, Item 1A. Risk Factors, and in Part II, Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations, and, from time to time, in our other filings we make with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
By their nature, forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties because they relate to events that depend on circumstances that may or may not occur in the future. You should not place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements. Any forward-looking statement speaks only as of the date on which it is made. We assume no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statement.
We were founded in 1946 and incorporated in Oregon in 1968. We completed our initial public offering in 1996. We are one of the largest automotive retailers in the United States and are among the fastest growing companies in the Fortune 500 (#318-2017) with 171 stores representing 30 brands in eighteen states as of February 23, 2018 We offer vehicles online and through our nationwide retail network. Our "Growth Powered by People" strategy drives us to innovate and continuously improve the customer experience.
Our dealerships are located across the United States. We seek domestic, import and luxury franchises in cities ranging from mid-sized regional markets to metropolitan markets. We evaluate all brands for expansion opportunities provided the market is large enough to support adequate new vehicle sales to justify the required capital investment.
The following table sets forth information about stores that were part of our operations as of December 31, 2017:
Business Strategy and Operations
We offer customers convenient personalized service combined with the large company advantages of selection, competitive pricing and broad access to financing and warranties. We strive for diversification in our products, services, brands and geographic locations to manage market risk and to maintain profitability. We have developed a centralized support structure to reduce store level administrative functions. This allows store personnel to focus on providing a positive customer experience. With our performance management strategy, standardized information systems and centrally and regionally-performed administrative functions, we seek to gain economies of scale from our dealership network.
We offer a variety of luxury, import and domestic new vehicle brands and models, reducing our dependence on any one manufacturer and our susceptibility to changing consumer preferences. Encompassing economy and luxury cars, sport utility vehicles (SUVs), crossovers, minivans and trucks, we believe our brand mix is well-suited to what customers demand in the markets we serve. Our new vehicle unit mix of 56% import, 32% domestic and 12% luxury compares to the national market mix of 48%, 44% and 8%, respectively, for the year ended December 31, 2017.
Our mission statement is “Growth Powered by People." We seek to expand our business through acquiring stores with strong brands which meet our investment metrics. Additionally, we focus on unlocking the potential of our existing stores by designing agile approaches tailored for the local market and identifying operational opportunities with our performance management reporting.
Operations are structured to promote an entrepreneurial environment at the dealership level. Each store’s general manager and department managers, with assistance from regional and corporate management, are responsible for developing successful retail plans in their local markets. They are responsible for driving dealership operations, personnel development, manufacturer relationships, store culture and financial performance.
We have centralized many administrative functions to streamline store-level operations. Accounts payable, accounts receivable, credit and collections, accounting and taxes, payroll and benefits, information technology, legal, human resources, personnel development, treasury, cash management, advertising and marketing are all centralized at our corporate headquarters or regional accounting processing centers. The reduction of administrative functions at our stores allows our local managers to focus on customer-facing opportunities to increase revenues and gross profit. Our operations are supported by our dedicated training and personnel development program, which shares best practices across our dealership network and seeks to develop management talent.
During 2017, we focused on achieving our mission through acquisitions and through organic growth within our existing stores.
We purchased 18 stores and opened one new store during 2017. We invested $349.4 million, net of floor plan debt, to acquire these stores and we expect these acquisitions to add over $1.7 billion in annual revenues. Additionally, these acquisitions allow us to maintain an appropriate franchise mix and leverage our cost structure. We focus on successfully integrating acquired stores to achieve targeted returns.
We also organically grew our existing stores in 2017 by:
We target SG&A as a percentage of gross profit in the upper 60% range and monitor how efficiently we leverage our cost structure by evaluating throughput. For 2017, our SG&A as a percentage of gross profit was 69.2% compared to 69.1% in 2016. Adjusted for a non-core charge, SG&A as percentage of gross profit was 68.8% and 68.9%, respectively, for 2017 and 2016. As noted above, we acquired eighteen stores and opened one new store in 2017; we acquired fifteen stores and one franchise, and opened one new store in 2016. The increase in SG&A as a percentage of gross profit was due to our recent acquisitions, which tend to have less cost efficient structures until we can fully integrate their operations.
We evaluate how to allocate capital, including returning cash to our investors and investing in our stores. During 2017, we paid $26.5 million in dividends, spent $33.8 million to repurchase 361,000 shares, or 2% of total outstanding shares, and purchased a capped call option of 325,000 shares for $33.4 million. We also invested in our facilities, making $105.4 million in capital expenditures. We continue to manage our liquidity and available cash to prepare for future acquisition opportunities. As of December 31, 2017, we had $279.8 million in available funds in cash and availability on our credit facilities, with an estimated additional $236.1 million available if we financed our unencumbered owned real estate.
In 2017, we sold 167,146 new vehicles, generating 22.4% of our gross profit for the year. New vehicle sales have the potential to create incremental future profit opportunities through certain manufacturer incentive programs, resale of used vehicles acquired through trade-in, arranging of third-party financing, vehicle service and insurance contracts, and future service and repair work.
In 2017, we represented 30 domestic and import brands ranging from economy to luxury cars, SUVs, crossovers, minivans and light trucks.
* Less than 0.1%
We purchase our new car inventory directly from manufacturers, who generally allocate new vehicles to stores based on availability, monthly sales levels and market area demand. Accordingly, we rely on the manufacturers to provide us with vehicles that meet consumer demand at suitable locations, with appropriate quantities and prices. However, if high demand vehicles, or vehicles with certain option configurations are in short supply, we attempt to exchange vehicles with other automotive retailers and between our own stores to accommodate customer demand and to balance inventory.
At each new vehicle store, we also sell used vehicles. In 2017, we sold 129,913 retail used vehicles, which generated 18.9% of our gross profit.
Our used vehicle operations give us an opportunity to:
We classify our used vehicles in three categories: manufacturer certified pre-owned used vehicles ("CPO"); late model, lower-mileage vehicles ("Core Product") and higher mileage, older vehicles ("Value Autos"). We offer CPO vehicles at most of our franchised dealerships. These vehicles undergo additional reconditioning and receive an extended OEM-provided warranty. Core Product are reconditioned and offer a Lithia certified warranty. Value Autos undergo a safety check and a lesser degree of reconditioning and are offered to customers who desire a less expensive vehicle or a lower monthly payment.
We acquire our used vehicles through customer trade-ins, purchases from non-Lithia stores, independent vehicle wholesalers and private parties, and at closed auctions.
Our near-term goal for used vehicles is to retail an average of 85 units per store per month. As of December 31, 2017, our stores sold an annualized average of 67 retail used units per month. We believe used vehicle sales represent a significant area for organic growth. As new vehicle sales growth rates return to average historical levels and we continue our focus on growing used retail sales, we believe our target is achievable.
Wholesale transactions result from vehicles we have acquired via trade-in from customers or vehicles we have attempted to sell via retail that we elect to dispose of due to inventory age or other factors. As part of our used vehicle strategy, we have concentrated on directing more lower-priced, older vehicles to retail sale rather than wholesale disposal.
Vehicle Financing, Service Contracts and Other Products
As part of the vehicle sales process, we assist in arranging customer vehicle financing options as well as offering extended warranties, insurance contracts and vehicle and theft protection products. The sale of these items generated 25.5% of our gross profit in 2017.
We believe that arranging vehicle financing is an important part of our ability to sell vehicles and related products and services. Our sales personnel and finance and insurance managers receive training in securing customer financing and possess extensive knowledge of available financing alternatives. We attempt to arrange financing for every vehicle we sell and we offer customers financing on a “same day” basis, giving us an advantage, particularly over smaller competitors who do not generate enough sales to attract our breadth of finance sources.
We earn a commission on each finance, service and insurance contract we write and subsequently sell to a third party. We normally arrange financing for customers by selling the contracts to outside sources on a non-recourse basis to avoid the risk of default.
We arranged vehicle financing on 76.0% of the vehicles we sold during 2017. Our presence in multiple markets and changes in technology surrounding the credit application process have allowed us to utilize a larger network of lenders across a broader geographic area. Additionally, we continue to see the availability of consumer credit expand with lenders increasing the loan-to-value amount available to most customers. These shifts afford us the opportunity to sell additional or more comprehensive products, while remaining within a loan-to-value framework acceptable to our lenders.
We also market third-party extended warranty contracts, insurance contracts and vehicle and theft protection products to our customers. These products and services yield higher profit margins than vehicle sales and contribute significantly to our profitability. Extended warranty and service contracts for vehicles provide coverage for certain repairs beyond the duration or scope of the manufacturer’s warranty. We believe the sale of extended warranties, service contracts and vehicle and theft protection products increases our service and parts business by building a customer base for future repair work at our locations.
When customers finance an automobile purchase, we offer them life, accident and disability insurance coverage, as well as guaranteed auto protection coverage that provides protection from loss incurred by the difference in the amount owed and the amount received under a comprehensive insurance claim. We receive a commission on each policy sold.
We offer a lifetime lube, oil and filter (“LOF”) service, which, in 2017, was purchased by 25.0% of our total new and used vehicle buyers. This service, where customers prepay for their LOF services, helps us retain customers by building customer loyalty and provides opportunities for selling additional routine maintenance items and generating repeat service business. In 2017, we sold an average of $64 of additional maintenance on each lifetime oil service we performed.
Service, Body and Parts
In 2017, our service, body and parts operations generated 32.5% of our gross profit. These operations are an integral part of establishing customer loyalty and contribute significantly to our overall revenue and profits. We provide parts and service for the new vehicle brands sold by our stores, as well as service and repair most other makes and models.
The service and parts business provides important repeat revenues to our stores, which we seek to grow organically. Customer pay revenues represent sales for vehicle maintenance, service performed on vehicles that have fallen outside the manufacturer warranty period, repairs not covered by a manufacturer warranty, or maintenance and service on other makes and models. We believe increasing our product and service offerings for customers differentiates us from independent repair shops and dealerships with less scale. Our service and parts revenues benefit from the increases we have seen in new vehicle sales over the last few years as there are a greater number of late model vehicles in operation, which tend to visit franchised dealership locations more frequently than older vehicles due to the manufacturer warranty period. Additionally, certain franchises provide routine maintenance, such as oil changes, for two to four years after a vehicle is sold, which provides for future service and parts revenues.
We focus on growing our customer pay business and market our parts and service products by notifying owners when their vehicles are due for periodic service. This encourages preventive maintenance rather than post-breakdown repairs. The number of customers who purchase our lifetime LOF service helps to improve customer loyalty and provides opportunities for repeat parts and service business.
Revenues from the service and parts departments are particularly important during economic downturns, when owners tend to repair their existing vehicles rather than buy new vehicles. This partially mitigates the effects of a drop in new vehicle sales that may occur in a recessionary economic environment.
We believe body shops provide an attractive opportunity to grow our business, and we continue to evaluate potential locations to expand. We currently operate 25 collision repair centers: five in each of Oregon and Texas; three in Pennsylvania; two each in Idaho, New York and Washington; and one each in Alaska, Iowa, Montana, Nevada, Vermont and Wyoming.
We report three business segments: Domestic, Import and Luxury. For certain financial information by segment, see Notes 1 and 18 of Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements included in Part II, Item 8 of this Annual Report.
We believe that stores with strong local identities and customer loyalty are critical to our success. We want our customers’ experiences to be so satisfying that we earn their business for life. In conjunction with our manufacturer partners, we utilize an owner marketing strategy consisting of database analysis, email, traditional mail and phone contact to anticipate, listen and respond to customer needs.
To increase awareness and traffic at our stores and websites, we use a combination of traditional, digital and social media to reach potential customers. Total advertising expense, net of manufacturer credits, was $93.3 million in 2017, $81.4 million in 2016 and $69.9 million in 2015. In 2017, 22% of those funds were spent in traditional media and 78% were spent in digital and owner communications and other media outlets. In all of our communications, we seek to convey the promise of a positive customer experience, competitive pricing and wide selection.
Certain advertising and marketing expenditures are offset by manufacturer cooperative programs which require us to submit requests for reimbursement to manufacturers for qualifying advertising expenditures. These advertising credits are not tied to specific vehicles and are earned as qualifying expenses are incurred. These reimbursements are recognized as a reduction of advertising expense. Manufacturer cooperative advertising credits were $22.8 million in 2017, $20.3 million in 2016 and $19.8 million in 2015.
Many people now shop online before visiting our stores. We maintain websites for all of our stores and corporate sites (Lithia.com, DCHAuto.com, CarboneCars.com, Baierl.com, and DTLAMotors.com), to generate customer leads for our stores. We also support a corporate site (LithiaMotors.com) which provides our communities, investors, employees and recruits additional information about our company.
Our retail websites enable our customers to:
Mobile traffic now accounts for over 60% of our web traffic and all of our sites utilize responsive technology to enhance the mobile and tablet experience. We are working with our stores and manufacturer partners to develop additional tools that enable customers to complete as much of the vehicle buying process online before arriving at our stores: saving them time, improving their experience and increasing our productivity.
We post our inventory on major new and used vehicle listing services (cars.com, autotrader.com, cargurus.com, kbb.com, edmunds.com, craigslist, and hundreds of local webpages) to reach online shoppers. We also employ search engine optimization, search engine marketing, online display and re-targeting as well as video pre-roll to reach more online prospects. We also encourage our stores to dedicate a larger share of their advertising spend to promoting service and repair work as we focus on customer acquisition and the value of customer retention.
Social influence marketing represents a cost-effective method to enhance our corporate reputation, our stores’ reputations, and increase vehicle sales and service. We deploy tools and training to our employees in ways that will help us listen to our customers and create more advocates for Lithia, DCH, Carbone, Baierl, and Downtown LA.
We also encourage our stores to give back to their local communities through financial and non-financial participation in local charities and events. Through Lithia4Kids and DCH's sponsorship of The National Teen Safe Driving Foundation, our initiatives to increase employee volunteerism and community involvement, we focus the impact of our contributions on projects that support opportunities and the safety and development of young people.
Each of our stores operates under a separate agreement (a “Franchise Agreement”) with the manufacturer of the new vehicle brand it sells.
Typical automobile Franchise Agreements specify the locations within a designated market area at which the store may sell vehicles and related products and perform approved services. The designation of such areas and the allocation of new vehicles among stores are at the discretion of the manufacturer. Franchise Agreements do not, however, guarantee exclusivity within a specified territory.
A Franchise Agreement may impose requirements on the store with respect to:
Each manufacturer closely monitors compliance with these requirements and requires each store to submit monthly financial statements. Franchise Agreements also grant a store the right to use and display manufacturers’ trademarks, service marks and designs in the manner approved by each manufacturer.
We have determined the useful life of a Franchise Agreement is indefinite, even though certain Franchise Agreements are renewed after one to six years. In our experience, agreements are routinely renewed without substantial cost and there are legal remedies to help prevent termination. Certain Franchise Agreements have no termination date. In addition, state franchise laws protect franchised automotive retailers. Under certain laws, a manufacturer may not terminate or fail to renew a franchise without good cause or prevent any reasonable changes in the capital structure or financing of a store.
The typical Franchise Agreement provides for early termination or non-renewal by the manufacturer upon:
Franchise Agreements generally provide for prior written notice before a franchise may be terminated under most circumstances. We also sign master framework agreements with most manufacturers that impose additional requirements. See Item 1A, “Risk Factors.”
The retail automotive business is highly competitive. Currently, there are approximately 18,000 dealers in the United States, many of whom are independent stores managed by individuals, families or small retail groups. We compete primarily with other automotive retailers, both publicly- and privately-held.
Vehicle manufacturers have designated specific marketing and sales areas within which only one dealer of a vehicle brand may operate. In addition, our Franchise Agreements typically limit our ability to acquire multiple dealerships of a given brand within a particular market area. Certain state franchise laws also restrict us from relocating our dealerships, or establishing new dealerships of a particular brand, within any area that is served by another dealer with the same brand. To the extent that a market has multiple dealers of a particular brand, as certain markets we operate in do, we are subject to significant intra-brand competition.
We are larger and have more financial resources than most private automotive retailers with which we currently compete in the majority of our regional markets. We compete directly with retailers with similar or greater resources in markets such as metropolitan New York, the greater Los Angeles area, Seattle, Washington; Spokane, Washington; Anchorage, Alaska; Portland, Oregon and the San Francisco Bay Area, California. If we enter other new markets, we may face competitors that are larger or have access to greater financial resources. We do not have any cost advantage in purchasing new vehicles from manufacturers. We rely on advertising and merchandising, pricing, our customer guarantees and sales model, our sales expertise, service reputation and the location of our stores to sell new vehicles.
Automotive and Other Laws and Regulations
We operate in a highly regulated industry. A number of state and federal laws and regulations affect our business. In every state in which we operate, we must obtain various licenses to operate our businesses, including dealer, sales and finance and insurance licenses issued by state regulatory authorities. Numerous laws and regulations govern our business, including those relating to our sales, operations, financing, insurance, advertising and employment practices. These laws and regulations include state franchise laws and regulations, consumer protection laws, privacy laws, escheatment laws, anti-money laundering laws and federal and state wage-hour, anti-discrimination and other employment practices laws.
Our financing activities with customers are subject to numerous federal, state and local laws and regulations. In recent years, there has been an increase in activity related to oversight of consumer lending by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ("CFPB"), which has broad regulatory powers. The CFPB does not have direct authority over automotive dealers; however, its regulation of larger automotive finance companies and other financial institutions could affect our financing activities. Claims arising out of actual or alleged violations of law may be asserted against us or our stores by individuals, a class of individuals, or governmental entities. These claims may expose us to significant damages or other penalties, including revocation or suspension of our licenses to conduct store operations and fines.
The vehicles we sell are also subject to rules and regulations of various federal and state regulatory agencies.
Environmental, Health, and Safety Laws and Regulations
Our operations involve the use, handling, storage and contracting for recycling and/or disposal of materials such as motor oil and filters, transmission fluids, antifreeze, refrigerants, paints, thinners, batteries, cleaning products, lubricants, degreasing agents, tires and fuel. Consequently, our business is subject to a complex variety of federal, state and local requirements that regulate the environment and public health and safety.
Most of our stores use above ground storage tanks, and, to a lesser extent, underground storage tanks, primarily for petroleum-based products. Storage tanks are subject to periodic testing, containment, upgrading and removal under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and its state law counterparts. Clean-up or other remedial action may be necessary in the event of leaks or other discharges from storage tanks or other sources. In addition, water quality protection programs under the federal Water Pollution Control Act (commonly known as the Clean Water Act), the Safe Drinking Water Act and comparable state and local programs govern certain discharges from our operations. Similarly, certain air emissions from operations, such as auto body painting, may be subject to the federal Clean Air Act and related state and local laws. Health and safety standards promulgated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the United States Department of Labor and related state agencies also apply.
Certain stores may become a party to proceedings under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, or CERCLA, typically in connection with materials that were sent to former recycling, treatment and/or disposal facilities owned and operated by independent businesses. The remediation or clean-up of facilities where the release of a regulated hazardous substance occurred is required under CERCLA and other laws.
We incur certain costs to comply with environmental, health and safety laws and regulations in the ordinary course of our business. We do not anticipate, however, that the costs of such compliance will have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, cash flows or financial condition, although such outcome is possible given the nature of our operations and the extensive environmental, public health and safety regulatory framework. We may become aware of minor contamination at certain of our facilities, and we conduct investigations and remediation at properties as needed. In certain cases, the current or prior property owner may conduct the investigation and/or remediation or we have been indemnified by either the current or prior property owner for such contamination. We do not currently expect to incur significant costs for remediation. However, no assurances can be given that material environmental commitments or contingencies will not arise in the future, or that they do not already exist but are unknown to us.
Our mission statement is "Growth Powered by People". We cultivate an entrepreneurial, high-performance culture and strive to develop leaders from within and innovate the customer experience. We continue to develop tools, training and growth opportunities that accelerate the depth of our talent. One example of this is our Accelerated Management Program (AMP), which began in 2016. This program is designed to deepen the knowledge of future leaders in all aspects of our business and develop leadership skills to better position participants for a future as a general manager in one of our stores or as a regional leader. This program continues to produce new leaders from within the Company, with a 84% increase in the number of management positions filled by internally-developed candidates in 2017.
As of December 31, 2017, we employed approximately 12,899 persons on a full-time equivalent basis.
Seasonality and Quarterly Fluctuations
Historically, our sales have been lower during the first quarter of each year due to consumer purchasing patterns during the holiday season and inclement weather in certain of our markets. Our franchise diversification and cost controls have moderated this seasonality. However, if conditions occur that weaken automotive sales, such as severe weather in the geographic areas in which our dealerships operate, war, high fuel costs, depressed economic conditions including unemployment or weakened consumer confidence or similar adverse conditions, our revenues for the year may be disproportionately adversely affected.
Available Information and NYSE Compliance
We file annual, quarterly and current reports, proxy statements and other information with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”). You may inspect and copy our reports, proxy statements, and other information filed with the SEC at the SEC’s Public Reference Room at 100 F Street, NE, Washington, D.C. 20549. Please call the SEC at 1-800-SEC-0330 for further information on the Public Reference Room. The SEC maintains an Internet Web site at http://www.sec.gov where you may access copies of our SEC filings. We also make available free of charge, on our website at www.lithiainvestorrelations.com, our annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K, and amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Exchange Act, as soon as reasonably practicable after they are filed electronically with the SEC. The information found on our website is not part of this Annual Report on Form 10-K. You may also obtain copies of these reports by contacting Investor Relations at 877-331-3084.
Item 1A. Risk Factors
You should carefully consider the risks described below before making an investment decision. The risks described below are not the only ones facing our company. Additional risks not presently known to us, or that we currently deem immaterial, may also impair our business operations.
Risks related to our business
The automotive retail industry is sensitive to changing economic conditions and various other factors. Our business and results of operations are substantially dependent on new vehicle sales levels in the United States and in our particular geographic markets and the level of gross profit margins that we can achieve on our sales of new vehicles, all of which are very difficult to predict.
Our business is heavily dependent on consumer demand and preferences. A downturn in overall levels of consumer spending may materially and adversely affect our revenues and gross profit margins. Retail vehicle sales are cyclical and historically have experienced periodic downturns characterized by weak demand. These cycles are often dependent on general economic conditions and consumer confidence, as well as the level of discretionary personal income and credit availability. Economic conditions may be anemic for an extended period of time, or deteriorate in the future. This would have a material adverse effect on our retail business, particularly sales of new and used automobiles.
In addition, our performance is subject to local economic, competitive and other conditions prevailing in our various geographic areas. Our dealerships are currently located in limited markets in 18 states, with sales in the top three states accounting for 52% of our revenue in 2017. Our results of operations, therefore, depend substantially on general economic conditions, consumer spending levels and other factors in those markets and could be materially adversely affected to the extent these markets experience sustained economic downturns regardless of improvements in the U.S. economy overall.
Historically, in times of rapid increase in crude oil and fuel prices, sales of vehicles have dropped, particularly in the short term, as the economy slows, consumer confidence wanes and fuel costs become more prominent to the consumer’s buying decision. In sustained periods of higher fuel costs, consumers who do purchase vehicles tend to prefer smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles (which typically have lower margins) or hybrid vehicles (which can be in limited supply during these periods). A significant portion of our new vehicle revenue and gross profit is derived from domestic manufacturers. These manufacturers have historically sold a higher percentage of trucks and SUVs than import or luxury brands. They may, therefore, experience a more significant decline in sales in the event that fuel prices increase.
Approximately 17.1 million, 17.5 million, and 17.4 million new vehicles were sold in the United States in 2017, 2016, and 2015, respectively. Certain industry analysts have predicted that new vehicle sales will decline below 17 million for 2018. If new vehicle production exceeds the rate at which new vehicles are sold, our gross profit per vehicle could be adversely affected by this excess and any resulting changes in manufacturer incentive and marketing programs. See the risk factor “If manufacturers or distributors discontinue or change sales incentives, warranties and other promotional programs, our business, results of operations, financial condition and cash flows may be materially adversely affected” below. Economic conditions and the other factors described above may also materially adversely impact our sales of used vehicles, parts and repair and maintenance services, and automotive finance and insurance products.
Natural disasters and adverse weather conditions can disrupt our business.
Our dealerships are in states and regions in the U.S. in which actual or threatened natural disasters and severe weather events (such as hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, floods, landslides, wind and/or hail storms) or other extraordinary events have in the past, and may in the future, disrupt our dealership operations and impair the value of our dealership property. A disruption in our operations may adversely impact our business, results of operations, financial condition and cash flows. In addition to business interruption, the automotive retailing business is subject to substantial risk of property loss due to the significant concentration of property at dealership locations. The exposure on any single claim under our property and casualty insurance, medical insurance and workers’ compensation insurance varies based upon type of coverage. Our maximum exposure on any single claim is $5.5 million, subject to certain aggregate limit thresholds.
The automotive manufacturing supply chain spans the globe. As such, supply chain disruptions resulting from natural disasters and adverse weather events may affect the flow of inventory or parts to us or our manufacturing partners.
Such disruptions could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, or cash flows.
Increasing competition among automotive retailers reduces our profit margins on vehicle sales and related businesses. Further, the use of the Internet in the car purchasing process could materially adversely affect us.
Automobile retailing is a highly competitive business. Our competitors include publicly and privately-owned dealerships, of which certain competitors are larger and have greater financial and marketing resources than we have. Many of our competitors sell the same or similar makes of new and used vehicles that we offer in our markets at competitive prices. We do not have any cost advantage in purchasing new vehicles from manufacturers due to the volume of purchases or otherwise.
Our finance and insurance business and other related businesses, which have higher margins than sales of new and used vehicles, are subject to strong competition from various financial institutions and others.
The Internet has become a significant part of the sales process in our industry. Customers are using the Internet to compare pricing for vehicles and related finance and insurance services, which may further reduce margins for new and used vehicles and profits for related finance and insurance services. If Internet new vehicle sales are allowed to be conducted without the involvement of franchised dealers, our business could be materially adversely affected. In addition, other franchise groups have aligned themselves with services offered on the Internet or are investing heavily in the development of their own Internet capabilities, which could materially adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial condition and cash flows.
Our Franchise Agreements do not grant us the exclusive right to sell a manufacturer’s product within a given geographic area. Our revenues or profitability could be materially adversely affected if any of our manufacturers award franchises to others in the same markets where we operate or if existing franchised dealers increase their market share in our markets.
In addition, we may face increasingly significant competition as we strive to gain market share through acquisitions or otherwise. Our operating margins may decline over time as we expand into markets where we do not have a leading position.
Changes to the automotive industry and consumer views on car ownership could materially adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial condition and cash flows.
The automotive industry is predicted to experience rapid change in the years to come, including increases in ride-sharing services, advances in electric vehicle production and driverless technology. Ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft provide consumers with mobility options outside of the traditional car ownership and lease alternatives. The overall impact of these options on the automotive industry is uncertain, and may include lower levels of new vehicle sales. Manufacturers continue to invest in increasing production and quality of AEVs (all-electric vehicles), which generally require less maintenance than traditional cars and trucks. The effects of AEVs on the automotive industry are uncertain and may include reduced parts and service revenues, as well as changes in the level of sales of certain F&I products such as extended warranty and lifetime lube, oil and filter contracts. Technological advances are also facilitating the development of driverless vehicles. The eventual timing of availability of driverless vehicles is uncertain due to regulatory requirements, technological hurdles, and uncertain consumer acceptance of these technologies. The effect of driverless vehicles on the automotive industry is uncertain and could include changes in the level of new and used vehicle sales, the price of new vehicles, and the role of franchised dealers, any of which could materially and adversely affect our business.
A decline of available financing in the lending market may adversely affect our vehicle sales volume.
A significant portion of buyers finance their vehicle purchases. One of the primary finance sources used by consumers in connection with the purchase of a new or used vehicle is the manufacturer captive finance company. These captive finance companies rely, to a certain extent, on the public debt markets to provide the capital necessary to support their financing programs. In addition, the captive finance companies will occasionally change their loan underwriting criteria to alter the risk profile of their loan portfolio. In addition, sub-prime lenders have historically provided financing for consumers who, for a variety of reasons, including poor credit histories and lack of down payment, do not have access to more traditional finance sources. If lenders tighten their credit standards or there is a decline in the availability of
credit in the lending market, the ability of consumers to purchase vehicles could be limited, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and cash flows.
Adverse conditions affecting one or more key manufacturers may negatively affect our business, results of operations, financial condition and cash flows.
We depend on our manufacturers to provide a supply of vehicles which supports expected sales levels. Events that adversely affect a manufacturer’s ability to timely deliver new vehicles may adversely affect us by reducing our supply of popular new vehicles, leading to lower sales in our stores during those periods than would otherwise occur. We depend on our manufacturers to deliver high-quality, defect-free vehicles. If manufacturers experience quality issues, our financial performance may be adversely impacted. In addition, the discontinuance of a particular brand could negatively impact our revenues and profitability.
Vehicle manufacturers would be adversely affected by economic downturns or recessions, adverse fluctuations in currency exchange rates, significant declines in the sales of their new vehicles, increases in interest rates, declines in their credit ratings, port closures, labor strikes or similar disruptions (including within their major suppliers), supply shortages or rising raw material costs, rising employee benefit costs, adverse publicity that may reduce consumer demand for their products, product defects, vehicle recall campaigns, litigation, poor product mix or unappealing vehicle design, or other adverse events. These and other risks could materially adversely affect any manufacturer and limit its ability to profitably design, market, produce or distribute new vehicles, which, in turn, could materially adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial condition and cash flows.
We are subject to a concentration of risk in the event of financial distress, including potential reorganization or bankruptcy, of a major vehicle manufacturer. We purchase substantially all of our new vehicles from various manufacturers or distributors at the prevailing prices available to all franchised dealers. Our sales volume could be materially adversely impacted by the manufacturers’ or distributors’ inability to supply our stores with an adequate supply of vehicles.
In the event of a manufacturer or distributor bankruptcy, we could be held liable for damages related to product liability claims, intellectual property suits or other legal actions. These legal actions are typically directed towards the vehicle manufacturer and it is customary for manufacturers to indemnify us from exposure related to any judgments associated with the claims. However, if damages could not be collected from the manufacturer or distributor, we could be named in lawsuits and judgments could be levied against us.
Many new manufacturers are entering the automotive industry. New companies have raised capital to produce fully electric vehicles or to license battery technology to existing manufacturers. Tesla has demonstrated the ability to successfully introduce electric vehicles to the marketplace. Foreign manufacturers from China and India are producing significant volumes of new vehicles and are entering the U.S. and selecting partners to distribute their products. Because the automotive market in the U.S. is mature and the overall level of new vehicle sales may not increase in the coming years, the success of new competitors will likely be at the expense of other, established brands. This could have a material adverse impact on our success in the future.
Federal regulations around fuel economy standards and “greenhouse gas” emissions have continued to increase. New requirements may adversely affect any manufacturer’s ability to profitably design, market, produce and distribute vehicles that comply with such regulations. We could be adversely impacted in our ability to market and sell these vehicles at affordable prices and in our ability to finance these inventories. These regulations could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and cash flows.
If manufacturers or distributors discontinue or change sales incentives, warranties and other promotional programs, our business, results of operations, financial condition and cash flows may be materially adversely affected.
We depend upon the manufacturers and distributors for sales incentives, warranties and other programs that are intended to promote new vehicle sales or supplement dealer income. Manufacturers and distributors routinely make changes to their incentive programs. Key incentive programs include:
Our financial condition could be materially adversely impacted by a discontinuation or change in our manufacturers’ or distributors’ incentive programs. In addition, certain manufacturers use criteria such as a dealership’s manufacturer-determined customer satisfaction index (“CSI" score), facility image compliance, employee training, digital marketing and parts purchase programs as factors governing participation in incentive programs. To the extent we do not meet minimum score requirements, we may be precluded from receiving certain incentives, which could materially adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial condition and cash flows.
Franchised automotive retailers perform factory authorized service work and sell original replacement parts on vehicles covered by warranties issued by the automotive manufacturer. For the year ended December 31, 2017, approximately 24% of our service, body and parts revenue was for work covered by manufacturer warranties or manufacturer-sponsored maintenance services. To the extent a manufacturer reduces the labor rates or markup of replacement parts for such warranty work, our service, body and parts sales volume could be adversely affected.
The ability of our stores to make new vehicle sales depends in large part upon the manufacturers and, therefore, any disruption or change in our relationships could impact our business.
We depend on the manufacturers to provide us with a desirable mix of new vehicles. The most popular vehicles usually produce the highest profit margins and are frequently in short supply. If we cannot obtain sufficient quantities of the most popular models, our profitability may be adversely affected. Sales of less desirable models may reduce our profit margins.
Each of our stores operates pursuant to a Franchise Agreement with each of the respective manufacturers for which it serves as franchisee. Each of our stores may obtain new vehicles from manufacturers, service vehicles, sell new vehicles, and display vehicle manufacturers’ brand only to the extent permitted under these agreements. As a result of the terms of our Franchise Agreements, manufacturers exert significant control over the day-to-day operations at our stores. Such agreements contain provisions for termination or non-renewal for a variety of causes, including service retention, facility compliance, customer satisfaction and sales and financial performance. From time to time, certain of our stores have failed to comply with certain provisions of their franchise agreements, and we cannot ensure that our stores will be able to comply with these provisions in the future.
Our Franchise Agreements expire at various times, and there can be no assurances that we will be able to renew these agreements on a timely basis or on acceptable terms or at all. Actions taken by a manufacturer to exploit its bargaining position in negotiating the terms of renewals of franchise agreements or otherwise could also have a material adverse effect on our revenues and profitability. If a manufacturer terminates or fails to renew one or more of our significant franchise agreements or a large number of our franchise agreements, such action could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and cash flows.
Our Franchise Agreements also specify that, except in certain situations, we cannot operate a franchise by another manufacturer in the same building as the manufacturer’s franchised store. This may require us to build new facilities at a significant cost. Moreover, our manufacturers generally require that the store meet defined image standards. These commitments could require us to make significant capital expenditures.
Our Franchise Agreements do not give us the exclusive right to a given geographic area. Manufacturers may be able to establish new franchises or relocate existing franchises, subject to applicable state franchise laws. The establishment of or relocation of franchises in our markets could have a material adverse effect on the business, financial condition and results of operations of our stores in the market in which the action is taken.
Manufacturer stock ownership requirements and restrictions may impair our ability to maintain or renew franchise agreements or issue additional equity.
Certain of our Franchise Agreements prohibit transfers of ownership interests of a store or, in some cases, the ownership interests of the store’s indirect parent companies, including the Company. Agreements with various manufacturers, including, among others, Honda/Acura, Hyundai, Mazda, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, Subaru, Toyota, Ford/Lincoln, GM, and Nissan, provide that, under certain circumstances, we may lose a franchise and/or be forced to sell one or more stores or their assets if there occurs a prohibited transfer of ownership interests (in some cases not defined or defined ambiguously) or a person or entity acquires an ownership interest in us above a specified level (ranging from 20% to 50% depending on the particular manufacturer’s restrictions and falling as low as 5% if another vehicle
manufacturer or distributor is the entity acquiring the ownership interest) without the approval of the manufacturer. Transactions in our stock by our stockholders or prospective stockholders, including transactions in our Class B common stock, are generally outside of our control and may result in the termination or non-renewal of one or more of our franchises, may result in a forced sale of one or more of our stores or their assets at a price below fair market value or may impair our ability to negotiate new franchise agreements for dealerships we desire to acquire in the future, which may have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and cash flows. These restrictions may also prevent or deter a prospective acquirer from acquiring control of us or otherwise adversely affect the market price of our Class A common stock or limit our ability to restructure our debt obligations.
If state dealer laws are repealed or weakened, our dealerships will be more susceptible to termination, non-renewal or renegotiation of their franchise agreements. Additionally, federal bankruptcy law can override protections afforded under state dealer laws.
State dealer laws generally provide that a manufacturer may not terminate or refuse to renew a franchise agreement unless it has first provided the dealer with written notice setting forth good cause and stating the grounds for termination or non-renewal. Certain state dealer laws allow dealers to file protests or petitions or attempt to comply with the manufacturer’s criteria within the notice period to avoid the termination or non-renewal. If dealer laws are repealed in the states where we operate, manufacturers may be able to terminate our franchises without providing advance notice, an opportunity to cure or a showing of good cause. Without the protection of state dealer laws, it may also be more difficult to renew our franchise agreements upon expiration or on terms acceptable to us.
In addition, these laws restrict the ability of automobile manufacturers to directly enter the retail market in the future. Manufacturer lobbying efforts (including those of Tesla) may lead to the repeal or revision of these laws. If manufacturers obtain the ability to directly retail vehicles and do so in our markets, such competition could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and cash flows.
As evidenced by the bankruptcy proceedings of both Chrysler and GM in 2009, state dealer laws do not afford continued protection from manufacturer terminations or non-renewal of franchise agreements. No assurances can be given that a manufacturer will not seek protection under bankruptcy laws, or that, in this event, they will not seek to terminate franchise rights held by us.
Import product restrictions, currency valuations, and foreign trade risks may impair our ability to sell foreign vehicles or parts profitably.
A significant portion of the vehicles we sell are manufactured outside the U.S., and all of the vehicles we sell include parts manufactured outside the U.S. As a result, our operations are subject to customary risks of importing merchandise, including currency fluctuation, import duties, exchange rates, trade restrictions, work stoppages, transportation costs, natural or man-made disasters, and general political and socio-economic conditions in other countries. The U.S. or the countries from which our products are imported, may, from time to time, impose new quotas, duties, tariffs or other restrictions, or adjust presently prevailing quotas, duties or tariffs, which may affect our operations and our ability to purchase imported vehicles and/or parts at reasonable prices. Changes in U.S. trade policies, including the North American Free Trade Agreement or policies intended to penalize foreign manufacturing or imports, and policies of foreign countries in reaction to those changes could increase the prices we pay for some of the new vehicles and parts we sell. Any changes that increase the costs of vehicles and parts generally, to the extent passed on to customers, could negatively affect customer demand and our revenues and profitability. If not passed on to our customers, any cost increases will adversely affect our profitability. Any cost increase that disproportionately applies to manufacturers that sell to us could adversely affect our business compared to other automobile retailers.
Our operations are subject to extensive governmental laws and regulations. If we are found to be in purported violation of or subject to liabilities under any of these laws, or if new laws or regulations are enacted that adversely affect our operations, our business, operating results, and prospects could suffer.
We are subject to federal, state and local laws and regulations in the eighteen states in which we operate, such as those relating to franchising, motor vehicle sales, retail installment sales, leasing, finance and insurance, marketing, licensing, consumer protection, consumer privacy, escheatment, anti-money laundering, environmental, vehicle emissions and fuel economy, and health and safety. In addition, with respect to employment practices, we are subject to various laws and regulations, including complex federal, state and local wage and hour and anti-discrimination laws. New laws and regulations are enacted on an ongoing basis. With the number of stores we operate, the number of personnel we employ
and the large volume of transactions we handle, it is likely that technical mistakes will be made. These regulations affect our profitability and require ongoing training. Current practices in stores may become prohibited. We are responsible for ensuring that continued compliance with laws is maintained. If there are unauthorized activities, the state and federal authorities have the power to impose civil penalties and sanctions, suspend or withdraw dealer licenses or take other actions. These actions could materially impair our activities or our ability to acquire new stores in those states where violations occurred. Further, private causes of action on behalf of individuals or a class of individuals could result in significant damages or injunctive relief.
We may be involved in legal proceedings arising from the conduct of our business, including litigation with customers, employee-related lawsuits, class actions, purported class actions and actions brought by governmental authorities. Claims arising out of actual or alleged violations of law may be asserted against us or any of our dealers by individuals, either individually or through class actions, or by governmental entities in civil or criminal investigations and proceedings. Such actions may expose us to substantial monetary damages and legal defense costs, injunctive relief, criminal and civil fines and penalties and damage our reputation and sales.
Our financing activities are subject to federal truth-in-lending, consumer leasing and equal credit opportunity laws and regulations, as well as state and local motor vehicle finance laws, installment finance laws, insurance laws, usury laws and other installment sales laws and regulations. Some states regulate finance, documentation and administrative fees that may be charged in connection with vehicle sales. In recent years, private plaintiffs and state attorneys general in the U.S. have increased their scrutiny of advertising, sales, and finance and insurance activities in the sale and leasing of motor vehicles. These activities have led many lenders to limit the amounts that may be charged to customers as fee income for these activities. If these or similar activities were to significantly restrict our ability to generate revenue from arranging financing for our customers, we could be adversely affected.
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the "Dodd-Frank Act"), which was signed into law on July 21, 2010, established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (the "CFPB"), a new independent federal agency funded by the U.S. Federal Reserve with broad regulatory powers and limited oversight from the U.S. Congress. Although automotive dealers are generally excluded, the Dodd-Frank Act has led to additional, indirect regulation of automotive dealers, in particular, their sale and marketing of finance and insurance products, through its regulation of automotive finance companies and other financial institutions. In March 2013, the CFPB issued supervisory guidance highlighting its concern that the practice of automotive dealers being compensated for arranging customer financing through discretionary markup of wholesale rates offered by financial institutions (“dealer markup”) results in a significant risk of pricing disparity in violation of The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (the “ECOA”). The CFPB recommended that financial institutions under its jurisdiction take steps to ensure compliance with the ECOA, which may include imposing controls on dealer markup, monitoring and addressing the effects of dealer markup policies, and eliminating dealer discretion to markup buy rates and fairly compensating dealers using a different mechanism that does not result in disparate impact to certain groups of consumers.
Our marketing and disclosure regarding the sale and servicing of vehicles is regulated by federal, state and local agencies including the Federal Trade Commission ("FTC") and state attorneys general. For example, in January 2016, we settled FTC allegations that we did not adequately disclose information about used vehicles with open safety recalls. Under the settlement, we did not make any payments or admit wrong-doing, but we did agree to make specified disclosures on our website and to provide that disclosure to certain customers who had previously purchased a used vehicle from us.
If we or any of our employees at any individual dealership violate or are alleged to violate laws and regulations applicable to them or protecting consumers generally, we could be subject to individual claims or consumer class actions, administrative, civil or criminal investigations or actions and adverse publicity. Such actions could expose us to substantial monetary damages and legal defense costs, injunctive relief and criminal and civil fines and penalties, including suspension or revocation of our licenses and franchises to conduct dealership operations.
Environmental laws and regulations govern, among other things, discharges into the air and water, storage of petroleum substances and chemicals, the handling and disposal of wastes and remediation of contamination arising from spills and releases. In addition, we may also have liability in connection with materials that were sent to third-party recycling, treatment and/or disposal facilities under federal and state statutes. These federal and state statutes impose liability for investigation and remediation of contamination without regard to fault or the legality of the conduct that contributed to the contamination. Similar to many of our competitors, we have incurred and expect to continue to incur capital and operating expenditures and other costs in complying with such federal and state statutes. In addition, we may be subject
to broad liabilities arising out of contamination at our currently and formerly owned or operated facilities, at locations to which hazardous substances were transported from such facilities, and at such locations related to entities formerly affiliated with us. Although for some such potential liabilities we believe we are entitled to indemnification from other entities, we cannot assure you that such entities will view their obligations as we do or will be able or willing to satisfy them. Failure to comply with applicable laws and regulations, or significant additional expenditures required to maintain compliance therewith, may have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition, cash flows and prospects.
Breaches in our data security systems or in systems used by our vendor partners, including cyber-attacks or unauthorized data distribution by employees or affiliated vendors, or disruptions to access and connectivity of our information systems could impact our operations or result in the loss or misuse of customers’ proprietary information.
Our information technology systems are important to operating our business efficiently. We employ information technology systems, including websites, that allow for the secure handling and processing of customers’ proprietary information. The failure of our information technology systems, and those of our partner software and technology vendors, to perform as we anticipate could disrupt our business and could expose us to a risk of loss or misuse of this information, litigation and potential liability.
We collect, process, and retain personally identifiable information regarding customers, associates and vendors in the normal course of our business. Our internal and third-party systems are under a moderate level of risk from hackers or other individuals with malicious intent to gain unauthorized access to our systems. Cyber-attacks are growing in number and sophistication thus presenting an ongoing threat to systems, whether internal or external, used to operate the business on a day-to-day basis. We invest in reasonable commercial security technology to protect our data and business processes against many of these risks. We also purchase insurance to mitigate the potential financial impact of many of these risks. Despite the security measures we have in place, our facilities and systems, and those of our third-party service providers, could be vulnerable to security breaches, computer viruses, lost or misplaced data, programming errors, human errors, acts of vandalism, or other events. Any security breach or event resulting in the misappropriation, loss, or other unauthorized disclosure of confidential information, or degradation of services provided by critical business systems, whether by us directly or our third-party service providers, could adversely affect our business operations, sales, reputation with current and potential customers, associates or vendors, as well as other operational and financial impacts derived from investigations, litigation, imposition of penalties or other means.
Our ability to increase revenues and profitability through acquisitions depends on our ability to acquire and successfully integrate additional stores.
The U.S. automobile industry is considered a mature industry in which minimal growth is expected in unit sales of new vehicles. Accordingly, a principal component of our growth in sales is to make acquisitions in our existing markets and in new geographic markets. To complete the acquisition of additional stores, we need to successfully address each of the following challenges.
We are required to obtain consent from the applicable manufacturer prior to the acquisition of a franchised store. In determining whether to approve an acquisition, a manufacturer considers many factors, including our financial condition, ownership structure, the number of stores currently owned and our performance with those stores. Obtaining manufacturer approval of acquisitions also takes a significant amount of time, typically 60 to 90 days. In the past, manufacturers have not consented to our purchase of franchised stores due to the performance of existing stores. We cannot assure you that manufacturers will approve future acquisitions timely, if at all, which could significantly impair the execution of our acquisition strategy.
Most major manufacturers have now established limitations or guidelines on the:
In addition, such manufacturers generally require that no other manufacturers’ brands be sold from the same store location, and many manufacturers have site control agreements in place that limit our ability to change the use of the facility without their approval.
A manufacturer also considers our past performance as measured by the Minimum Sales Responsibility (“MSR”) scores, CSI scores and Sales Satisfaction Index (“SSI”) scores at our existing stores. At any point in time, certain stores may have scores below the manufacturers’ sales zone averages or have achieved sales below the targets manufacturers have set. Our failure to maintain satisfactory scores and to achieve market share performance goals could restrict our ability to complete future store acquisitions.
We will face risks commonly encountered with growth through acquisitions. These risks include, without limitation:
In addition, we may not adequately anticipate all of the demands that growth will impose on our systems, procedures and structures.
Consummation and Competition
We may not be able to complete future acquisitions at acceptable prices and terms or identify suitable candidates. In addition, increased competition in the future for acquisition candidates could result in fewer acquisition opportunities for us and higher acquisition prices. The magnitude, timing, pricing and nature of future acquisitions will depend upon various factors, including:
Operating and Financial Condition
Although we conduct what we believe to be a prudent level of investigation, an unavoidable level of risk remains regarding the actual operating condition of acquired stores and we may not have an accurate understanding of each acquired store’s financial condition and performance. Similarly, most of the dealerships we acquire do not have financial statements audited or prepared in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles. We may not have an accurate understanding of the historical financial condition and performance of our acquired businesses. Until we assume control of the business, we may not be able to ascertain the actual value or understand the potential liabilities of the acquired businesses and their earnings potential. These risks may not be adequately mitigated by the indemnification obligations we negotiated with sellers.
Limitations on Our Capital Resources
We make a substantial capital investment when we acquire dealerships. Limitations on our capital resources would restrict our ability to complete new acquisitions or could limit our operating or financial flexibility.
We finance acquisitions activity with cash flows from our operations, borrowings under our credit arrangements, proceeds from our offering of senior notes, proceeds from mortgage financing and the issuance of shares of Class A common stock. The size of our acquisition activity in recent years magnifies risks associated with debt service obligations. These risks include potential lower earnings per share, our inability to pay dividends and potential negative impacts to the debt covenants we negotiated under our credit agreement.
If we fail to meet the covenants in our credit facility or our senior notes indenture, or if some other event occurs that results in a default or an acceleration of our repayment obligations under our debt instruments, we may not be able to refinance our debt on terms acceptable to us or at all. We may not be able to obtain financing in the future due to the market price of our Class A common stock and overall market conditions. Additionally, a substantial amount of assets of our dealerships are pledged to secure the indebtedness under our credit facility and our other floor plan financing indebtedness. These pledges may limit our ability to borrow from other sources in order to fund our acquisitions.
Goodwill and other intangible assets comprise a significant portion of our total assets. We must test our goodwill and other intangible assets for impairment at least annually, which could result in a material, non-cash write-down of goodwill or franchise rights and could materially adversely affect our business, results of operations, and financial condition.
Goodwill and indefinite-lived intangible assets are subject to impairment assessments at least annually (or more frequently when events or changes in circumstances indicate that an impairment may have occurred) by applying a fair-value based test. Our principal intangible assets are goodwill and our rights under our franchise agreements with vehicle manufacturers. A decrease in our market capitalization or profitability increases the risk of goodwill impairment. Negative or declining cash flows or a decline in actual or planned revenues for our stores increases the risk of franchise rights impairment. An impairment loss could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and cash flows. As of December 31, 2017, our balance sheet reflected carrying amounts of $256.3 million in goodwill, and $187.0 million million in franchise value.
We are subject to substantial risk of loss under our various self-insurance programs including property and casualty, open lot vehicle coverage, workers’ compensation and employee medical coverage. Our insurance does not fully cover all of our operational risks, and changes in the cost of insurance or the availability of insurance could materially increase our insurance costs or result in a decrease in our insurance coverage.
We have a significant concentration of our property values at each dealership location, including vehicle and parts inventories and our facilities. Natural disasters and severe weather events (such as hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, floods, landslides and wind or hail storms) or other extraordinary events subject us to property loss and business interruption. Illegal or unethical conduct by employees, customers, vendors and unaffiliated third parties can also impact our business. Other potential liabilities arising out of our operations may involve claims by employees, customers or third parties for personal injury or property damage and potential fines and penalties in connection with alleged violations of regulatory requirements.
Under our self-insurance programs, we retain various levels of aggregate loss limits, per claim deductibles and claims-handling expenses. Costs in excess of these retained risks may be insured under various contracts with third-party insurance carriers. As of December 31, 2017, we had total reserve amounts associated with these programs of $31.2 million.
The level of risk we retain may change in the future as insurance market conditions or other factors affecting the economics of our insurance purchasing change. The operation of automobile dealerships is subject to a broad variety of risks. In certain instances, our insurance may not fully cover an insured loss depending on the magnitude and nature of the claim. Accordingly, we cannot assure that we will not be exposed to uninsured or underinsured losses that could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations or cash flows. Additionally, changes in the cost of insurance or the availability of insurance in the future could substantially increase our costs to maintain our current level of coverage or could cause us to reduce our insurance coverage and increase the portion of our risks that we self-insure.
Our indebtedness and lease obligations could materially adversely affect our financial health, limit our ability to finance future acquisitions and capital expenditures and prevent us from fulfilling our financial obligations. Much of our debt is secured by a substantial portion of our assets. Much of our debt has a variable interest rate component that may significantly increase our interest costs in a rising rate environment.
Our indebtedness and lease obligations could have important consequences to us, including the following:
In addition, our loan agreements and our senior note indenture contain covenants that limit our discretion with respect to business matters, including incurring additional debt, granting additional security interests in our assets, acquisition activity, disposing of assets and other business matters. Other covenants are financial in nature, including current ratio, fixed charge coverage and leverage ratio calculations. A breach of any of these covenants could result in a default under the applicable agreement. In addition, a default under one agreement could result in a default and acceleration of our repayment obligations under the other agreements under the cross-default provisions in such other agreements.
We have granted in favor of certain of our lenders and other secured parties, including those under our $2.4 billion revolving syndicated credit facility, a security interest in a substantial portion of our assets. If we default on our obligations under those agreements, the secured parties may be able to foreclose upon their security interests and otherwise be entitled to obtain or control those assets.
Certain debt agreements contain subjective acceleration clauses based on a lender deeming itself insecure or if a “material adverse change” in our business has occurred. If these clauses are implicated, and the lender declares that an event of default has occurred, the outstanding indebtedness would likely be immediately due and owing.
If these events were to occur, we may not be able to pay our debts or borrow sufficient funds to refinance them. Even if new financing were available, it may not be on terms acceptable to us. As a result of this risk, we could be forced to take actions that we otherwise would not take, or not take actions that we otherwise might take, in order to comply with these agreements.
In addition, the lenders' obligations to make loans or other credit accommodations under certain credit agreements is subject to the satisfaction of certain conditions precedent including, for example, that our representations and warranties in the agreement are true and correct in all material respects as of the date of the proposed credit extension. If any of our representations and warranties in those agreements are not true and correct in all material respects as of the date of a proposed credit extension, or if other conditions precedent are not satisfied, we may not be able to request new loans or other credit accommodations under those credit facilities, which could have a material adverse impact on our business, results of operations, financial condition and cash flows.
Additionally, our real estate debt generally has a five to ten-year term, after which the debt needs to be renewed or replaced. A decline in the appraised value of real estate or a reduction in the loan-to-value lending ratios for new or renewed real estate loans could result in our inability to renew maturing real estate loans at the debt level existing at maturity, or on terms acceptable to us, requiring us to find replacement lenders or to refinance at lower loan amounts.
As of December 31, 2017, 76% of our total debt was variable rate. The majority of our variable rate debt is indexed to the one-month LIBOR rate. The current interest rate environment is at historically low levels, and interest rates will likely increase in the future. In the event interest rates increase, our borrowing costs may increase substantially. Additionally, fixed rate debt that matures may be renewed at interest rates significantly higher than current levels. As a result, this could have a material adverse impact on our business, results of operations, financial condition and cash flows.
We may not be able to satisfy our debt obligations upon the occurrence of a change in control under our debt instruments.
Upon the occurrence of a change in control as defined in our credit agreement, the agent under the credit agreement will have the right to declare all outstanding obligations immediately due and payable and to terminate the availability of future advances to us. Upon the occurrence of a change in control, as defined in our senior notes indenture, the holders of our senior notes will have the right to require us to purchase all or any part of such holders' notes at a price equal to 101% of the principal amount thereof, plus accrued and unpaid interest, if any. There can be no assurance that we would have sufficient resources available to satisfy all of our obligations under the credit agreement in the event of a change in control or fundamental change. In the event we were unable to satisfy these obligations, it could have a material adverse impact on our business and our common stock holders. A "change in control" as defined in our credit agreement includes, among other events, the acquisition by any person, or two or more persons acting in concert, in either case other than Lithia Holdings Company, L.L.C., Sid DeBoer or Bryan DeBoer, of beneficial ownership (within the meaning of Rule 13d-3 of the SEC under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934) of 20% or more of the outstanding shares of our voting stock on a fully diluted basis.
We have a significant relationship with a third-party warranty insurer and administrator. This third-party is the obligor of service warranty policies sold to our customers. Additionally, we have agreements in place that allow for future income based on the claims experience on policies sold to our customers.
We sell service warranty policies to our customers issued by a third-party obligor. We receive additional fee income if actual claims are less than the amounts reserved for anticipated claims and the costs of administration and administrator profit.
A decline in the financial health of the third-party insurer could jeopardize the claims reserves held by the administrator, and prevent us from collecting the experience payments anticipated to be earned in future years. While the amount we receive varies annually, the loss of this income could negatively impact our business, results of operations, financial condition and cash flows. Further, the inability of the insurer to honor service warranty claims would likely result in reputational risk to us and might result in claims to cover any default by the insurer.
The loss of key personnel or the failure to attract additional qualified management personnel could adversely affect our operations and growth.
Our success depends to a significant degree on the efforts and abilities of our senior management. Further, we have identified Bryan B. DeBoer in most of our store franchise agreements as the individual who controls the franchises and upon whose financial resources and management expertise the manufacturers may rely when awarding or approving the transfer of any franchise. If we lose these key personnel, our business may suffer.
In addition, as we expand, we will need to hire additional managers and other employees. The market for qualified employees in the industry and in the regions in which we operate, particularly for general managers and sales and service personnel, is highly competitive and may subject us to increased labor costs during periods of low unemployment. The loss of the services of key employees or the inability to attract additional qualified managers could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and cash flows. In addition, the lack of qualified managers or other employees employed by potential acquisition candidates may limit our ability to consummate future acquisitions.
Significant voting control is currently held by Sidney B. DeBoer, who may have interests different from our other shareholders. Further, all of the 1.0 million shares of our Class B common stock held by Lithia Holding Company, LLC (“Lithia Holding”) are pledged to secure indebtedness of Lithia Holding. The failure to repay the indebtedness could result in the sale of such shares and the loss of this significant voting control.
Sidney B. DeBoer, our Founder and Chairman of the Board, is the sole managing member of Lithia Holdings, which holds all of the outstanding shares of our Class B common stock. A holder of Class B common stock is entitled to ten votes for each share held, while a holder of Class A common stock is entitled to one vote per share held. On most matters, the Class A and Class B common stock vote together as a single class. As of February 23, 2018, Lithia Holding controlled, and Mr. DeBoer had the authority to vote, 29% of the aggregate number of votes eligible to be cast by shareholders for the election of directors and most other shareholder actions. This amount of voting control may make
certain changes in control or transactions more difficult. The interests of Mr. DeBoer may not always coincide with our interests as a company or the interests of other shareholders.
Lithia Holding has pledged 1.0 million shares of our Class B common stock to secure a loan from U.S. Bank National Association. If Lithia Holding is unable to repay the loan, the bank could foreclose on the Class B common stock, which would result in the automatic conversion of such shares to Class A common stock. The market price of our Class A common stock could decline if the bank foreclosed on the pledged stock and subsequently sold such stock in the open market.
Risks related to investing in our Class A common stock
Oregon law and our Restated Articles of Incorporation may impede or discourage a takeover, which could impair the market price of our Class A common stock.
We are an Oregon corporation, and certain provisions of Oregon law and our Restated Articles of Incorporation may have anti-takeover effects. These provisions could delay, defer or prevent a tender offer or takeover attempt that a shareholder might consider to be in his or her best interest. These provisions may also affect attempts that might result in a premium over the market price for the shares held by shareholders, and may make removal of the incumbent management and directors more difficult, which, under certain circumstances, could reduce the market price of our Class A common stock.
Our issuance of preferred stock could adversely affect holders of Class A common stock.
Our Board of Directors is authorized to issue a series of preferred stock without any action on the part of our holders of Class A common stock. Our Board of Directors also has the power, without shareholder approval, to set the terms of any such series of preferred stock that may be issued, including voting powers, preferences over our Class A common stock with respect to dividends or if we voluntarily or involuntarily dissolve or distribute our assets, and other terms. If we issue preferred stock in the future that has preference over our Class A common stock with respect to the payment of dividends or upon our liquidation, dissolution or winding up, or if we issue preferred stock with voting rights that dilute the voting power of our Class A common stock, the rights of holders of our Class A common stock or the price of our Class A common stock could be adversely affected.
Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments
Item 2. Properties
Our stores and other facilities consist primarily of automobile showrooms, display lots, service facilities, collision repair and paint shops, supply facilities, automobile storage lots, parking lots and offices located in the states listed under the caption Overview in Item 1. We believe our facilities are currently adequate for our needs and are in good repair. Some of our facilities do not currently meet manufacturer image or size requirements and we are actively working to find a mutually acceptable outcome in terms of timing and overall cost. We own our corporate headquarters in Medford, Oregon, and numerous other properties used in our operations. Certain of our owned properties are mortgaged. As of December 31, 2017, we had outstanding mortgage debt of $470.0 million. We also lease certain properties, providing future flexibility to relocate our retail stores as demographics, economics, traffic patterns or sales methods change. Most leases provide us the option to renew the lease for one or more lease extension periods. We also hold certain vacant facilities and undeveloped land for future expansion.
Item 3. Legal Proceedings
We are party to numerous legal proceedings arising in the normal course of our business. Although we do not anticipate that the resolution of legal proceedings arising in the normal course of business or the proceedings described below will have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition, or cash flows, we cannot predict this with certainty.
California Wage and Hour Litigations
In August 2014, Ms. Holzer filed a complaint in the Central District of California (Holzer v. DCH Auto Group (USA) Inc., Case No. BC558869) alleging that her employer, an affiliate of DCH Auto Group (USA) Inc., failed to provide vehicle finance and sales persons, service advisors, and other clerical and hourly workers accurate and complete wage statements; and statutory meal and rest periods. The complaint also alleges that the employer failed to pay these employees for off-the-clock time worked; and wages due at termination. The plaintiffs also seek attorney fees and costs. The plaintiffs (and several other employees in separate actions) are seeking relief under California’s PAGA provisions.
During the pendency of Holzer, related cases were filed that made substantially similar non-technician claims. In January 2017, DCH and all non-technician plaintiffs agreed in principle to settle the representative claims, and this settlement was approved by the California courts in December 2017. DCH Auto Group (USA) Limited must indemnify Lithia Motors, Inc. for losses related to this claim pursuant to the stock purchase agreement between Lithia Motors, Inc. and DCH Auto Group (USA) Limited dated June 14, 2014. We believe the exposure related to this lawsuit, when considered in relation to the terms of the stock purchase agreement, is immaterial to our financial statements.
Item 4. Mine Safety Disclosure
Stock Prices and Dividends
Our Class A common stock trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol LAD. The following table presents the high and low sale prices for our Class A common stock, as reported on the New York Stock Exchange Composite Tape for each of the quarters in 2016 and 2017:
The number of shareholders of record and approximate number of beneficial holders of Class A common stock as of February 23, 2018 was 520 and 32,147, respectively. All shares of Lithia’s Class B common stock are held by Lithia Holding Company, LLC. Sidney B. DeBoer Trust U.T.A.D. January 30, 1997 (the "Trust") is the manager of Lithia Holding Company, L.L.C., and Sidney DeBoer, as the trustee of the Trust, has the authority to vote all of the issued and outstanding shares of our Class B common stock.
Dividends declared on our Class A and Class B common stock during 2015, 2016 and 2017 were as follows:
Equity Compensation Plan Information
Information regarding securities authorized for issuance under equity compensation plans is included in Item 12.
Recent Sale of Unregistered Securities
On May 1, 2017, we agreed to issue 22,446 shares of Class A common stock to Lee W. Baierl as partial consideration for the purchase of Northland Ford, Inc., an entity we acquired in connection with our acquisition of the Baierl Auto Group. Under the agreement, we issued 4,489 shares to Mr. Baierl on May 1, 2017 and will issue 4,489 additional shares to him on each of January 1, 2018, 2019, and 2020; on January 1, 2021, we will issue to him the final 4,490 shares. The shares were issued to Mr. Baierl, an accredited investor, in a transaction exempt from Section 4(a)(2) of the Securities Act of 1933.
Repurchases of Equity Securities
We made the following repurchases of our common stock during the fourth quarter of 2017:
Stock Performance Graph
The following line-graph shows the annual percentage change in the cumulative total returns for the past five years on an assumed $100 initial investment and reinvestment of dividends, on (a) Lithia Motors, Inc.’s Class A common stock; (b) the Russell 2000; and (c) an auto peer group index composed of Penske Automotive Group, AutoNation, Sonic Automotive, Group 1 Automotive, and Asbury Automotive Group, the only other comparable publicly traded automobile dealerships in the United States as of December 31, 2017. The peer group index utilizes the same methods of presentation and assumptions for the total return calculation as does Lithia Motors and the Russell 2000. All companies in the peer group index are weighted in accordance with their market capitalizations.
Item 6. Selected Financial Data
You should read the Selected Financial Data in conjunction with "Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations,” our Consolidated Financial Statements and Notes thereto and other financial information contained elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations
You should read the following discussion in conjunction with Item 1. Business, Item 1A. Risk Factors, and our Consolidated Financial Statements and Notes thereto.
We are one of the largest automotive franchises in the United States and are among the fastest growing companies in the Fortune 500 (#318-2017). As of February 23, 2018, we offered 30 brands of new vehicles and all brands of used vehicles in 171 stores in the United States and online at over 200 websites. We sell new and used cars and replacement parts; provide vehicle maintenance, warranty, paint and repair services; arrange related financing; and sell vehicle service contracts, vehicle protection products and credit insurance.
We believe that the fragmented nature of the automotive dealership sector provides us with the opportunity to achieve growth through consolidation. In 2017, the top ten automotive retailers, as reported by Automotive News, represented approximately 7% of the stores in the United States. Our dealerships are located across the United States. We seek domestic, import and luxury franchises in cities ranging from mid-sized regional markets to metropolitan markets. We evaluate all brands for expansion opportunities provided the market is large enough to support adequate new vehicle sales to justify the required capital investment. Our acquisition strategy has been to acquire dealerships at prices that meet our internal investment targets and, through the application of our centralized operating structure, leverage costs and improve store profitability. We believe our disciplined approach and the current economic environment provides us with attractive acquisition opportunities.
We also believe that we can continue to improve operations at our existing stores. By promoting entrepreneurial leadership within our general and department managers, we strive for continuous improvement to drive sales and capture market share in our local markets. Our goal is to retail an average of 85 used vehicles per store per month and we believe we can make additional improvements in our used vehicle sales performance by offering lower-priced value vehicles and selling brands other than the new vehicle franchise at each location. Our service, body and parts operations provide important repeat business for our stores. We continue to grow this business through increased marketing efforts, competitive pricing on routine maintenance items and diverse commodity product offerings. In 2017, we continued to experience organic growth and profitability through increasing market share and maintaining a lean cost structure, while adding significant revenue to our base through acquisitions.
As sales volume increases and we gain leverage in our cost structure, we anticipate targeting SG&A as a percentage of gross profit in the upper 60% range. This metric may be impacted by recently acquired stores, as they may not be fully integrated into our cost structure. We focus on accelerating the integration of acquired stores to increase incremental profitability.
Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates
The preparation of financial statements in conformity with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles requires us to make certain estimates, judgments and assumptions that affect the reported amounts of assets and liabilities, the disclosure of contingent assets and liabilities and reported amounts of revenues and expenses at the date of the financial statements. Certain accounting policies require us to make difficult and subjective judgments on matters that are inherently uncertain. The following accounting policies involve critical accounting estimates because they are particularly dependent on assumptions made by management. While we have made our best estimates based on facts and circumstances available to us at the time, different estimates could have been used in the current period. Changes in the accounting estimates we used are reasonably likely to occur from period to period, which may have a material impact on the presentation of our financial condition and results of operations.
Our most critical accounting estimates include those related to goodwill and franchise value, long-lived assets, charge-backs for various contracts, lifetime lube, oil and filter contracts, self-insurance programs, revenue, income taxes, equity investments and acquisitions. We also have other key accounting policies for valuation of accounts receivable and expense accruals. However, these policies either do not meet the definition of critical accounting estimates described above or are not currently material items in our financial statements. We review our estimates, judgments and assumptions periodically and reflect the effects of revisions in the period that they are deemed to be necessary. We believe that these estimates are reasonable. However, actual results could differ materially from these estimates.
Goodwill and Franchise Value
We are required to test our goodwill and franchise value for impairment at least annually, or more frequently if conditions indicate that an impairment may have occurred. Goodwill is tested for impairment at the reporting unit level. Our reporting units are individual retail automotive stores as this is the level at which discrete financial information is available and for which operating results are regularly reviewed by our chief operating decision maker to allocate resources and assess performance.
We have the option to qualitatively or quantitatively assess goodwill for impairment and, in 2017, we evaluated our goodwill using a qualitative assessment process. If the qualitative factors determine that it is more likely than not that the fair value of the reporting unit exceeds the carrying amount, goodwill is not impaired. If the qualitative assessment determines it is more likely than not the fair value is less than the carrying amount, the first step of the two-step goodwill impairment test is performed.
As of December 31, 2017, we had $256.3 million of goodwill on our balance sheet associated with 151 reporting units No reporting unit accounted for more than 2.4% of our total goodwill as of December 31, 2017. The annual goodwill impairment analysis, which we perform as of October 1 of each year, did not result in an indication of impairment in 2017, 2016 or 2015.
We have determined the appropriate unit of accounting for testing franchise rights for impairment is on an individual store basis. We have the option to qualitatively or quantitatively assess indefinite-lived intangible assets for impairment. In 2017, we evaluated our indefinite-lived intangible assets using a qualitative assessment process. If the qualitative factors determine that it is more likely than not that the fair value of the individual store's franchise value exceeds the carrying amount, the franchise value is not impaired and the second step is not necessary. If the qualitative assessment determines it is more likely than not that the fair value is less than the carrying amount, then a quantitative valuation of our franchise value is performed and an impairment would be recorded.
As of December 31, 2017, we had $187.0 million of franchise value on our balance sheet associated with 151 stores. No individual store accounted for more than 5% of our total franchise value as of December 31, 2017. Our impairment testing of franchise value did not indicate any impairment in 2017, 2016 or 2015.
We are subject to financial statement risk to the extent that our goodwill or franchise rights become impaired due to decreases in the fair value. A future decline in performance, decreases in projected growth rates or margin assumptions or changes in discount rates could result in a potential impairment, which could have a material adverse impact on our financial position and results of operations. Furthermore, if a manufacturer becomes insolvent, we may be required to record a partial or total impairment on the franchise value and/or goodwill related to that manufacturer. No individual manufacturer accounted for more than 18% of our total franchise value and goodwill as of December 31, 2017.
See Notes 1 and 5 of Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information.
We estimate the depreciable lives of our property and equipment, including leasehold improvements, and review each asset group for impairment when events or circumstances indicate that their carrying amounts may not be recoverable. We determined an asset group is comprised of the long-lived assets used in the operations of an individual store.
We determine a triggering event has occurred by reviewing store forecasted and historical financial performance. An asset group is evaluated for recoverability if it has an operating loss in the current year and two of the prior three years. Additionally, we may judgmentally evaluate an asset group if its financial performance indicates it may not support the carrying amount of the long-lived assets. If a store meets these criteria, we estimate the projected undiscounted cash flows for each asset group based on internally developed forecasts. If the undiscounted cash flows are lower than the carrying value of the asset group, we determine the fair value of the asset group based on additional market data, including recent experience in selling similar assets.
We hold certain property for future development or investment purposes. If a triggering event is deemed to have occurred, we evaluate the property for impairment by comparing its estimated fair value based on listing price less costs to sell and other market data, including similar property that is for sale or has been recently sold, to the current carrying value. If the carrying value is more than the estimated fair value, an impairment is recorded.
Although we believe our property and equipment and assets held and used are appropriately valued, the assumptions and estimates used may change and we may be required to record impairment charges to reduce the value of these assets. A future decline in store performance, decrease in projected growth rates or changes in other operating assumptions could result in an impairment of long-lived asset groups, which could have a material adverse impact on our financial position and results of operations.
In 2017 and 2016, we did not record any impairments to long-lived assets; however, in 2015, we recorded $3.6 million of impairment charges associated with certain properties and equipment. As the expected future use of these facilities changed, the long-lived assets were tested for recoverability and were determined to have a carrying value exceeding their fair value.
See Notes 1 and 4 of Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information.
Charge-backs for Various Contracts
We receive commissions from the sale of vehicle service contracts and certain other insurance contracts. The contracts are sold through unrelated third parties, but we may be charged back for a portion of the commissions in the event of early termination of the contracts by customers. We record commissions at the time of sale of the vehicles, net of an estimated liability for future charge-backs. We have established a reserve for estimated future charge-backs based on an analysis of historical charge-backs in conjunction with estimated lives of the applicable contracts. If future cancellations are different than expected, we could have additional expense related to the cancellations in future periods, which could have a material adverse impact on our financial position and results of operations.
As of December 31, 2017, the reserve for future cancellations totaled $52.7 million and is included in accrued liabilities and other long-term liabilities on our Consolidated Balance Sheets. A 10% increase in expected cancellations would result in an additional reserve of $5.3 million.
See Note 7 of Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information.
Lifetime Lube, Oil and Filter Contracts
We retain the obligation for lifetime lube, oil and filter service contracts sold to our customers. Payments we receive upon sale of the lifetime oil contracts are deferred and recognized in revenue over the expected life of the service agreement to best match the expected timing of the costs to be incurred to perform the service. We estimate the timing and amount of future costs for claims and cancellations related to our lifetime lube, oil and filter contracts using historical experience rates and estimated future costs. If, in the future, usage and cancellations were different than expected or claims cost increased, we could have additional expenses related these contracts, reducing profitability.
As of December 31, 2017, the deferred revenue related to these self-insured contracts was $127.3 million.
See Note 7 of Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information.
We self-insure a portion of our property and casualty insurance, vehicle open lot coverage, medical insurance and workers’ compensation insurance. We engage third-parties to assist in estimating the loss exposure related to the self-retained portion of the risk associated with these insurances. Additionally, we analyze our historical loss and claims trends associated with these programs. The exposure on any single claim under our property and casualty insurance, medical insurance and workers’ compensation insurance varies based upon type of coverage. Our maximum exposure on any single claim is $5.5 million, subject to certain aggregate limit thresholds. Although we believe we have sufficient insurance, exposure to uninsured or underinsured losses may result in the recognition of additional charges, which could have a material adverse impact on our financial position and results of operations.
As of December 31, 2017, we had liabilities associated with these programs of $31.2 million recorded as a component of accrued liabilities and other long-term liabilities on our Consolidated Balance Sheets.
See Note 7 of Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information.
Revenue is earned from the sale of new and used vehicles, parts and service or from commissions earned on the arrangement of financing or sales of third party contracts and insurance products. We recognize revenue from the sale
of new and used vehicles and the the commissions earned associated with finance and insurance when a contract is signed by the customer, financing has been arranged or collectibility is reasonably assured and the delivery of the vehicle to the customer is made. Parts and service revenues are recognized upon completion and delivery of the parts or service to the customer. In May 2014, the Financial Accounting Standards Board ("FASB") issued accounting standards update ("ASU") 2014-09, "Revenue from Contracts with Customers,"which amends the accounting guidance related to revenues. We have evaluated the effect of this amendment to revenue recognition and expect the timing of our revenue recognition to generally remain the same.
See Notes 1 and 19 of Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information.
As of December 31, 2017, we had deferred tax assets of $76.3 million, net of valuation allowance of $0.6 million, and deferred tax liabilities of $132.5 million. The principal components of our deferred tax assets are related to allowances and accruals, deferred revenue and cancellation reserves. The principal components of our deferred tax liabilities are related to depreciation on property and equipment, inventories and goodwill. As a result of the tax reform passed in December 2017, we recorded a reduction in the value of our net deferred tax liability of $32.9 million.
We consider whether it is more likely than not that some portion or all of the deferred tax assets will not be realized. The ultimate realization of deferred tax assets is dependent upon future taxable income during the periods in which those temporary differences become deductible. We consider the scheduled reversal of deferred tax liabilities (including the impact of available carryback and carryforward periods), projected future taxable income, and tax-planning strategies in making this assessment.
Based upon the scheduled reversal of deferred tax liabilities, and our projections of future taxable income over the periods in which the deferred tax assets are deductible, we believe it is more likely than not that we will realize the benefits of the unreserved deductible differences.
As of December 31, 2017, we had a $0.6 million valuation allowance against our deferred tax assets associated with state net operating losses. Since these amounts are dependent on generating future taxable income, we evaluated the income expectations in the underlying states and determined that it is unlikely these amounts will be fully utilized. If we are unable to meet the projected taxable income levels utilized in our analysis, and depending on the availability of feasible tax planning strategies, we might record an additional valuation allowance on a portion or all of our deferred tax assets in the future.
See Note 13 of Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information.
Equity-Method Investment Associated with New Markets Tax Credits
In 2016 and 2015, we held an equity investment in a limited liability company managed by U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation. This investment generated new market tax credits under the New Markets Tax Credit Program (“NMTC Program”). The NMTC Program was established by Congress in 2000 to spur new or increased investments into operating businesses and real estate projects located in low-income communities. While U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation exercised management control over the limited liability company, due to the economic interest we held in the entity, we determined the appropriate accounting for our ownership portion of the entity was under the equity method of accounting. The equity-method investment generated operating losses on a quarterly basis and, accordingly, we were required to assess the investment for other than temporary impairment on a quarterly basis. We exited this equity-method investment in December 2016.
See Notes 1, 12 and 17 of Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information.
We account for acquisitions using the purchase method of accounting which requires recognition of assets acquired and liabilities assumed at fair value as of the date of the acquisition. Determination of the estimated fair value assigned to each assets acquired or liability assumed can materially impact the net income in subsequent periods through depreciation and amortization and potential impairment charges.
The most significant items we generally acquire in a transaction are inventory, long-lived assets, intangible franchise rights and goodwill. The fair value of acquired inventory is based on manufacturer invoice cost and market data. We estimate the fair value of property and equipment based on a market valuation approach. Additionally, we may use a
cost valuation approach to value long-lived assets when a market valuation approach is unavailable. We apply an income approach for the fair value of intangible franchise rights which discounts the projected future net cash flow using an appropriate discount rate that reflects the risks associated with such projected future cash flow.
See Notes 1 and 14 of Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information.
Results of Operations
For the year ended December 31, 2017, we reported net income of $245.2 million, or $9.75 per diluted share. For the years ended December 31, 2016 and 2015, we reported net income of $197.1 million, or $7.72 per diluted share, and $183.0 million, or $6.91 per diluted share, respectively.
Key Performance Metrics
Certain key performance metrics for revenue and gross profit were as follows (dollars in thousands):
Same Store Operating Data
We believe that same store comparisons are an important indicator of our financial performance. Same store measures demonstrate our ability to grow revenues in our existing locations. Therefore, we have integrated same store measures into the discussion below.
Same store measures reflect results for stores that were operating in each comparison period, and only include the months when operations occurred in both periods. For example, a store acquired in November 2016 would be included in same store operating data beginning in December 2017, after its first complete comparable month of operations. The fourth quarter operating results for the same store comparisons would include results for that store in only the period of December for both comparable periods.
New Vehicle Revenue and Gross Profit