AutoNation's Jackson: The recovery is real

Donna Harris covers retail issues for Automotive News
AutoNation chief Mike Jackson says the recovery is genuine. The U.S. industry's first-quarter gains were driven by more than incentives.

Just look at Florida and California, both hit hard by the recession. The nation's biggest dealership group saw double-digit sales growth in each state. In Florida, AutoNation's home and biggest market, the housing market has stabilized, Jackson notes. As the residential real estate business improves in other areas of the country, Florida benefits.

"If people can't sell their homes and move to Florida, it's a problem," he says.

Jackson says he's watching housing for signs of a more robust recovery. He especially wants to see new home sales increase and construction pick up.

Says Jackson: "That's crucial to truck sales."

AutoNation's U.S. forecast for 2010 remains 11.5 million light vehicle sales. Longer term? Jackson says it will take at least three years to climb back to 16 million.