AutoNation reports 6% March volume increase, best-selling Q1 since 2007

Jackson: "I can confidently say that the industry will break through the 16 million unit sales mark this year."
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AutoNation Inc. said today its U.S. new-vehicle retail sales rose 6 percent in March from a year earlier to 28,796 units.

New-vehicle sales for the first quarter increased 4 percent from the previous year to 70,217 units. It was the top-selling first quarter since 2007 for the nation’s largest auto retailer.

Retail sales in AutoNation's luxury segment jumped 8 percent in March from a year earlier to 5,380, the company said in a statement.

AutoNation's domestic and import brands also posted gains in March from the same month a year ago. Domestic-brand retail sales rose 9 percent to 9,233. Import-brand retail sales increased 3 percent to 14,183, AutoNation said.

Same-store sales rose 4 percent in March from the year earlier to 28,158. The company had a 2 percent rise in same-store sales in the first quarter to 68,682 vehicles.

Industrywide, U.S. light-vehicle sales rose 6 percent to 1.5 million units in March, exceeding analysts’ forecasts and signaling the auto industry has shaken off its sluggish start to 2014.

AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson, in an interview aired today on CNBC, said it was clear the winter impacted the entire U.S. economy, but that the final 10 days of sales in March were “phenomenal.”

“Incentives have been offered on vehicles. That’s because the build rate was expecting sales of 16 million [units] and with the traditional increase in sales at the end of March the market has come back and I can confidently say that the industry will break through the 16 million unit sales mark this year.”

AutoNation, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., ranks No. 1 on Automotive News' list of the top 125 dealership groups in the United States, with retail sales of 292,922 new vehicles in 2013.

You can reach Sean Gagnier at sgagnier@crain.com.


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