US dealer group Lithia Motors has announced a 56% rise in net earnings to $US7.9 million in the second quarter of 2002 compared to $5.1 million in the second quarter of 2001.

Earnings per share rose 16% to $0.43 per share versus $0.37 in the same period last year.

Net earnings for the first six months of 2002 rose 81% to $14.3 million compared to $7.9 million in the same period last year. Earnings per share increased 47% to $0.85 per share.

Results for the second quarter and first six months of last year included goodwill amortisation, which has been eliminated this year pursuant to new financial accounting standards.

Net income, reflecting this change, would have been $5.6 million and $9.1 million, respectively.

Lithia Motors' revenues increased 26% to $584.3 million in the second quarter of 2002 from $462.1 million in the second quarter of 2001. For the first six months of 2002, revenues increased 26% to $1.11 billion from $882.2 million in the first six months of 2001.

For the second quarter, new vehicle sales increased 25%, used vehicle sales increased 30%, parts/service sales increased 21%, and finance/insurance sales increased 25%.  Lithia's retail used/new ratio for the quarter was 0.9:1.

Finance and insurance income per retail unit increased $50 to $995 per unit compared to $945 in the second quarter of last year.

For the first six months, new vehicle sales increased 25%, used vehicle sales increased 32%, parts/service sales increased 18%, and finance/insurance sales increased 27%.  Lithia's used/new ratio for the first half of the year was 0.9:1.

Finance and insurance income increased $67 to $975 per unit.

"New vehicle same-store sales for Lithia were +3.1% for the quarter and +2.9% for the first six months of the year which compares favourably to industry new vehicle sales of -1.9% and -3.0% for the same periods," said Lithia chairman and CEO Sidney DeBoer.

"New vehicle same-store revenue growth was positive and basically the same for both domestic and import brands. Both sales and earnings were above forecast levels this quarter with double digit growth over the same period last year."