AutoNation profit up 24 percent on higher prices
AutoNation Inc., the nation's largest auto dealership chain, said Thursday that its third-quarter profit rose 24 percent as the short supply of new and used vehicles helped drive prices higher. The Fort Lauderdale company said its net income rose to $70.7 million, or 48 cents per share, for the period that ended Sept. 30. That compares with $56.9 million, or 38 cents per share, a year earlier. AutoNation, which owns 257 new-vehicle franchises in 15 states, said revenue increased 7 percent to $3.5 billion from $3.27 billion a year ago. Analysts polled by FactSet expected earnings of 47 cents a share on revenue of $3.4 billion.AutoNation said new-vehicle sales at dealerships open at least a year fell 2 percent and were flat overall, primarily because of model shortages from Japanese automakers caused by the March earthquake. Total U.S. industry new-vehicle sales increased 1 percent for the quarter. Across the industry, prices of Japanese vehicles were higher during the quarter because supply was short, and used-car prices remained high because of strong demand and short supplies. The company said the average price per new vehicle climbed by $1,818, or about 6 percent, during the quarter, while the average price per used vehicle rose by $575, or more than 3 percent. CEO Mike Jackson cited three drivers in the auto industry's recovery: a genuine replacement need as consumers postponed vehicle purchases over the past few years, new products and features from manufacturers, and "exceptional credit available at attractive rates."