Eric Iversen is Driving Results

Lithia Auto Stores’ Eric Iversen utilizes personal ownership in managing the auto leader’s 150-location portfolio to help it achieve success

Photo: Steve Zmak Photography

There’s a stimulating experience to be had when driving past car dealerships. After staring at seemingly nothing through a windshield for hours, gliding past an illuminated lot of polished new models can be a pleasant jolt to the senses.

Eric Iversen, director of real estate for Lithia Auto Stores, is in charge of stirring the senses of potential car buyers and curious motorists across the United States. Iversen manages the auto giant’s 150-store portfolio. He ensures each location best represents its brand, that customers are satisfied, and that the business operates efficiently. Lithia operates dealerships for every major auto manufacturer including Chrysler, Toyota, Honda, BMW, Porsche, and Volkswagen.

Green Elements

Lithia Auto Stores’ new corporate headquarters earned Silver LEED recognition. Here are some of the points that secured that honor:

  • More than 1,500 tons of building debris
    recycled from construction
  • Recycled pieces of furniture
  • Solar panels on the roof and work areas designed to allow for more natural light

Having broken into the Fortune 500, and being one of only three Oregon-based companies to do so, Lithia Auto Stores was recognized on Fortune’s list of most admired companies in 2013. Its rapid growth is attributed to many large acquisitions, managing each brand location well, and satisfying every customer. Iversen has played a major role in this success throughout the course of his 10-year tenure with the company.

It was nearly four years ago when Lithia built its new corporate headquarters in downtown Medford, Oregon. The new HQ earned Silver LEED certification by the US Green Building Council. It was constructed on the former site of one of its original Chrysler stores, vacated when Lithia built the largest auto mall in the state. In addition to its corporate headquarters, Lithia built its BMW of Seattle and Missoula to be LEED-certified as well. Every location Lithia builds—LEED-certified or not—puts the customer experience and the environment at the forefront.

One notable way of enhancing the customers’ experience is to eliminate waiting rooms. In fact, waiting rooms have been replaced altogether by customer lounges located within the showroom.

“Getting customers where they can see all the new product makes the experience more exciting and may even lead to a potential sale,” Iversen explains.

Iversen strives for each Lithia dealership to meet similar standards. He notes that his team installed LED lighting to more efficiently illuminate its car lots.

“All of our new lots are 100 percent LED, which makes it more efficient and requires less maintenance,” Iversen explains. “Consuming less energy makes more sense for our pocketbook, as well as the world around us.”

In addition to new construction, Lithia has gone back to more than 75 of its stores and retrofitted the lots and the interiors to LED. Thanks to a collaboration with
Vancouver, Washington-based Pacific Energy Concepts, Iversen says Lithia was able to bring this realization to life by installing the smart LED systems.

The company’s real estate management team has implemented many more sustainable features along these lines. When customers enter maintenance centers, high-speed doors open in one second and close in three to four seconds to avoid high air conditioning or heating expenses. After oil changes are performed, oil gets recycled using waste oil heaters, especially in cold-climate locations. Finally, solar panels are put in use at numerous dealerships, particularly in states where electricity costs are higher. For example, the company’s Hawaii dealerships limit their electrical costs (which can be five times as much as in the continental United States), through
solar panels.

Iversen says low construction and maintenance costs can also be maintained by working with a sense of pride.

“Taking personal ownership means spending each dollar as if it were your own,” he says. “It costs a lot of money to build or remodel buildings, and there is only so much capital to go around. The best way to spend those dollars wisely is to make decisions as if it is your own money.”

Lithia Auto Stores utilizes this mind-set when giving back to the Oregon community as well. The company has raised thousands of dollars for student-athlete scholarships through its annual Lithia/Raider Club Shootout. It also collaborates as a team for charitable events such as Medford’s Polar Plunge and the Court Appointed Special Advocate’s Giving Tree campaign.

The pride imbued in the company’s work is one of Iversen’s favorite aspects of going to work each day.

“Part of the enjoyment of this job is not having a problem with finding a solution,” Iversen says. “You have pride because you did something, made the customer happier, executed the best decision possible, and didn’t do it because someone told you to do it.”