Waiting and waiting for the recovery to accelerate

With a marketplace that's been “pretty fickle,” Asbury Automotive CEO Charles Oglesby isn't counting on a big rebound in auto sales yet this year.

Earlier in 2010, buyers seemed to be regaining confidence and sales significantly improved. But the month-to-month sales pace has slowed as negative economic news materialized in late spring and early summer.

“People started to be a little concerned again,” Oglesby told me earlier this week. He's not giving up on a rebound – but he says Asbury has reduced its cost structure and positioned itself to do well whether sales take off again or not.

Through most of July, traffic at Asbury's store was good, executives said – but it was about the same as June. And July traditionally is dramatically better than June, COO Michael Kearney said.

Of course, Asbury and all retailers are hoping for the big recovery.

Said Oglesby: “There is pent-up demand, and it could turn again as it did earlier in the year.”