Asbury 1st-quarter sales, continuing-operations profit rise

Asbury Automotive Group Inc. said improvements in all parts of its dealership business drove profits from continuing operations up sharply in the first quarter.

The nation’s seventh-largest dealership group posted income from continuing operations of $31.5 million, up 32 percent from a year earlier.

Net income fell 3 percent to $31.4 million. The 1st-quarter 2013 figure of $32.5 million reflected an after-tax gain of $8.9 million from the sale of a midline import store.

“I am thrilled with the success our stores demonstrated in growing profits while overcoming weather challenges,” Asbury CEO Craig Monaghan said in a statement. “We continue to believe that we have attractive opportunities to grow our business in 2014, especially in parts and services and used vehicles.”

Total revenue rose 11 percent to $1.36 billion. Total gross profit rose 12 percent.

Though sales in the quarter started slowly because of severe winter weather in many markets, business recovered strongly in March, executives said.

Asbury sold 21,656 new vehicles during the quarter, up 8 percent overall and up 5 percent on a same-store basis. By contrast, total U.S. new light-vehicle sales rose 1 percent during the same period. New-vehicle retail revenue rose 9 percent, while gross profit in that category rose 12 percent.

Used-vehicle retail revenue rose 15 percent, while used-vehicle retail gross profit rose 9 percent.

Finance and insurance net revenues rose 14 percent overall, coming in at $1,308 per vehicle on a same-store basis.

Parts-and-service revenue rose 8 percent, while gross profit in that category rose 11 percent.

Also today, Asbury said it plans to open two stand-alone used-vehicle stores and that COO Michael Kearney will retire next March.