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Strong April Sales for AutoNation

Zacks Equity Research

The automotive retailer AutoNation Inc. (AN) posted a 10% year-over-year increase in retail new vehicle sales to 22,515 units in Apr 2013. The rise was attributable to strong sales in the Domestic segment.

On a same-store basis, retail new vehicle sales went up 7% to 21,950 units. Apr 2013 had 25 selling days compared with 24 selling days in Apr 2012.

Sales in the Domestic segment went up 20% to 7,588 vehicles. The segment comprises retail automotive franchises that sell vehicles manufactured by Ford Motor Co. (F), Chrysler and others.

Sales in the Import segment went up 5% to 10,853 vehicles. The segment covers retail automotive franchises that sell vehicles manufactured by Toyota Motor Corp. (TM), Honda Motor Co. (HMC) and others.

Sales in the Premium Luxury segment rose 5% to 4,074 vehicles for the month. The segment consists of retail automotive franchises selling vehicles manufactured by Mercedes Benz, BMW, Lexus and others.

Auto sales in the U.S. slipped below seasonally adjusted rate (:SAAR) of 15 million units to 14.92 million vehicles in April for the first time since October last year due to weak commercial customer (fleet) sales. However, it increased from the year-ago level of 14.42 million units by 3.5%.

It is expected that strong pent-up demand, easier car finance and improving macroeconomic conditions will continue to act as a catalyst to rejuvenate U.S. auto sales to the pre-recession level.

Based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla, AutoNation is the largest automotive retailer in the U.S. The company owns and operates about 262 new vehicle franchises that sell 32 brands located in the major metropolitan markets across 15 states.

AutoNation posted a 21.4% rise in earnings per share to 68 cents in the first quarter of 2013 from 56 cents in the same quarter of 2012, topping the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 5 cents.

Revenues increased 10.8% to $4.1 billion, slightly ahead of the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $4.0 billion. The revenue growth was mainly attributable to strong new vehicle sales during the quarter. The company retains a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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