• Some markets are pressured by muted sales, CEO says on call
  • Company forecasts stronger market this year for used vehicles

Lithia Motors Inc. sank the most in 1 1/2 years after the U.S. auto-dealership operator trimmed its 2016 forecast for new-vehicle sales growth.

The shares slid 11 percent to $82.04 at 12:29 p.m. New York time after falling as much as 15 percent, the biggest intraday drop since October 2014.

Lithia narrowed its forecast for new-vehicle sales this year to an increase of 4.5 percent, from 5.5 percent in February, according to a statement Thursday. Investors were already nervous about U.S. auto deliveries, which in March skidded to the slowest pace in 13 months. Lithia’s stock had dropped at least 3 percent on March 31, the day before automakers announced their monthly sales, and on each of the following two trading days.

“I’d stay a third of our markets, primarily the energy states, are feeling the pressures of flat or slightly declining sales,” Chief Executive Officer Bryan DeBoer told analysts on a conference call Thursday.

Lithia reported first-quarter profit of $1.55 a share, compared with a $1.54 average of analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Revenue was $1.98 billion, slightly ahead of the $1.95 billion projection.

The company, which is based in Medford, Oregon, and operates 138 dealerships in 15 states, also raised its outlook for used-vehicle sales growth this year, to 9.5 percent from 6 percent, and for total revenue, to a range of $8.5 billion to $8.6 billion, from $8.4 billion to $8.5 billion. The full-year profit forecast was unchanged, at $7.30 to $7.50 a share. Analysts had estimated averages of $8.54 billion for sales and $7.66 a share for earnings.

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