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UPDATE 1-AutoNation quarterly profit surges on resilient demand

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(Adds CEO comments.)

Feb 16 (Reuters) - AutoNation Inc reported an 88%surge in quarterly adjusted profit on Tuesday as the largestU.S. auto dealership chain earned more per vehicle thanks totight inventories and robust demand for SUVs and trucks.

AutoNation Chief Executive Mike Jackson said on Tuesday theshortage in supplies of semiconductors "is significant, andmanufacturers can't give us too much visibility" on how vehicleshipments will be affected. For now, Jackson said, "retailersare managing the situation through price."

Global auto sales have rebounded from the pandemic lows hitearly last year as consumers increasingly prefer buying vehiclesthat provide more safety than public transportation during thehealth crisis.

Jackson said he's optimistic about U.S. car and truck demandgiven the combination of low interest rates, stable fuel pricesand the prospect of a significant new federal stimulus package.

"You can’t ask for a better environment," he said.

Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based AutoNation's gross profit pernew vehicle jumped 50% to $2,775 in the fourth quarter, while itrose 9.6% to $1,567 for used vehicles.

The company set a long-term goal of increasing combined newand used unit sales to more than 1 million vehicles annually,more than double the number sold in 2020.

AutoNation also said it expects to open five new stores bythe end of this year and 10 additional stores in 2022.

"We will do acquisitions in new vehicle franchises," Jacksonsaid.

The company's quarterly adjusted net income from continuingoperations was $213.1 million, or $2.43 share, compared with$113.2 million, or $1.25 per share, a year earlier.

Revenue rose 4% to $5.79 billion, and the company said ithad $2.3 billion of liquidity as of Dec. 31, 2020.

(Reporting by Shreyasee Raj in Bengaluru and Joe White inDetroit; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Steve Orlofsky)